Backstage on Broadway: Cherry Lane Theatre celebrates 90 years of innovation, creativity and history

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Tucked away from the bright lights of Broadway, in a cul-de-sac of the West Village, is the Cherry Lane Theatre.

“It’s one of the oldest theatres in New York,” Tonya Pinpkins, an actress well-known for her role in the soap opera All My Children, said.

“It’s the perfect place to do a play," Lynn Cohen, an actress famous for her role in Sex and the City, added.

And on October 6th, it's celebrating its 90th anniversary.

"It was actually built in 1836 as a brewery,” Angelina Fiordellisi, Cherry Lane's artistic director explained. “It was also a tobacco warehouse and then a box factory and in 1924 [it] transformed into the Cherry Lane Playhouse.”

RELATED: Famous Cherry Lane Theatre-goers talk Angelina Fiordellisi

A small place, that's hosted some big names.

Like famous playwrights Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Charles Fuller and Sam Shepard as well as incredible actors like Barbra Streisand, James Earl Jones, F. Murray Abraham, Vanessa Redgrave, Jesse Eisenberg and Frank Langella.

"The things you see here [are] always feel fresh or new to you in some way,” Crystal Dickinson, an actress currently in Broadway's You Can't Take It With You, said.

“It’s always been a cradle of creativity," Matt Williams, creator and executive producer of the hit series' "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne."

A cradle that needed some major TLC of its own.

“You could pull the bricks right out of the wall," Fiordellisi explained. “The seats would squeak and rain would come down and flood the first four rows.”

Angelina Fiordellisi is the reason Cherry Lane is not only functional, but thriving.

“I came in 1996," Fiordellisi said. “I could see what this place was going to be like. I got this rush that I was though, I needed to be here.”

But after a capital campaign in 2005, Cherry Lane raised enough money to do a complete overhaul of the theater.

And now it's thriving.

“As an actor, it's difficult to get a night off to see a show," David McAlwee, an actor currently in Broadway's The Wayside Motor Inn, said.

RELATED: Cherry Lane Theatre's Angelina Fiordellisi explains how plays are chosen

"[It's] really incredible to be in smaller environment where you’re really close to the actors,” Dickinson explained.

Which makes the show an experience.

“Everybody in the audience is up there, and that doesn’t happen on Broadway," Cohen explained. "And you can afford to be here!”

Cherry Lane Theatre also runs several programs like the Mentor Project, which pairs experienced playwrights with up and coming writers.

“It’s very valuable for us to have this place" Alfred Uhry, award-winning writer of Driving Miss Daisy, said. "We don’t have anything else like this in New York.”

And there will never be another place like it.

“It has a heart and a pulse," Fiordellisi said,

“I think being around for 90 years shows they’re doing something right

And there's no reason why it shouldn't be around for another 90 years.


Cherry Lane is holding a gala on Monday, October 7th to honor the playwrights, actors and performances that helped to build the past, present and future.



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