Theatre 80 is chock full of history. According to the affable owner, Lorcan Otway, Frank Sinatra once performed on their stage. Stars such as Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Jane Russell, Myrna Loy, Kitty Carlisle, and Dom DeLuise all visited this spot, pressing their hands into cement to decorate the sidewalk that lines the building.
Most amazing was learning the history of Theatre 80 itself, designed and created by Lorcan’s father, Howard Otway. Howard had come from a family involved in theatre since the seventeenth century, and after running away to become a coal miner, returned to the world of theatre at fifteen to become an actor and published writer. During his thirty years of traveling and performing on various stages, Howard would always take notes on how the stages themselves specifically affected the performances. In 1964, Howard was able to receive a loan from Walter Scheib, who had run the space since its time as an illegal nightclub during the Prohibition Era. With the success of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1967, Howard was able to pay off the loan and ensure that 80 St. Marks Place could grow to be what it is today.
Theatre 80 is part of a shrinking class of medium sized, off-Broadway theatres, and is truly one-of-a kind. Lorcan informed us that Howard’s main influences were Roman amphitheaters and German opera houses. He designed the theatre such that everyone is be able to see the entire performance, no matter where they were sitting. For this reason, the stage is enormous, taking up almost fifty percent of the room, and is also on a lower level than most other stages. The acoustics are also amazing, Lorcan telling us that a whisper on stage can be heard from the back row!
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Part of FAB, this prominent off Broadway theater encourages artists to express themselves freely and to create contemporary, original productions. The musical, Once, gained recognition after its debut performance here at the New York Theatre Workshop before it won eight Tony Awards on Broadway. My husband and I thought that this was one of the best musicals we have seen in a long time. We highly recommend that you see it too!
Built and consecrated in 1799, St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery is Manhattan’s oldest site of continuous worship and the second oldest church building. It inspired the naming of nearby St. Mark’s Place and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Today, however, it might be better known as a community gathering place, thanks to the many plays, dances, poetry readings, avant-garde films and political events that have been taking place on the premises for decades.St. Mark’s Church also has a significant burial ground, housing the vault of Peter Stuyvesant along with other prominent founders of New York City. When visiting the Minthorne House on 1st Street, we learned that several members of the Minthorne family were also buried here.
Founded by a group of Latinos, this FAB theater company is dedicated to promoting their heritage through Puerto Rican and Latin artists. (Although temporarily displaced due to a major building renovation, Teatro Circulo is still alive and well, holding performances and workshops in various locations throughout the city. Contact Fourth Arts Block at No. 61 for details.)
Horse Trade is a theater group comprised of The Red Room, Kraine Theater and Under St. Marks (at 94 St Marks Place). All three venues specialize in seeking out independent, emerging artists who are producing theater in a variety of forms including burlesque, straight drama and comedy. It is Horse Trade's hope that by giving them exposure here in the East Village, their productions will also gain recognition nationwide and internationally.
What a find...down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar." Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization.”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out!), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts...and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan.Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems,” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
Warhammer is the retail branch of an online British company that has been providing its unique gaming service for thirty years. The 8th Street location is New York's hotspot for miniature table-top war gaming. Eager workers will walk customers through every step - how to assemble the models, paint the pieces, and how to play the game itself. It takes a certain kind of patience and skill set to contract one's army and may appeal to a customer who enjoys strategy games such as chess. While it is recommended that kids begin learning the game at age twelve, we met a half a dozen men from ages eighteen to fifty who were sitting around the large table, chatting and toiling away on their magnificently detailed pieces.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit...but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.
Coffee tends to be a grab-and-go phenomenon here in Manhattan – the coffee break does not generally get its due respect. Here to change that completely, Stumptown’s 8th Street location elevates the coffee shop experience to a level unseen by most caffeine-addicted New Yorkers. I only know this because Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, is one of them. The double-height ceilings, large windows, and carved wood façade of the corner store actually used to house the historic 8th Street Books. The interior of the building has been meticulously and beautifully renovated to include an enormous wooden bar, coffered ceiling, warm herringbone floors, exposed brick walls and numerous small clusters of tables, chairs and benches. The store is divided between the intimate café area and a brew bar - a coffee exposition/educational space where baristas can engage customers in learning about different methods of making coffee and the various types of coffee beans. The brew bar has at least five different types of machines and manual brewers running at the same time with a lovely, knowledgable staff orchestrating all of it. Stumptown endeavors to build a community out of our many, rushed coffee drinkers, creating a perfect setting for relaxing and reading, or for someone to simply become better educated about coffee.