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Earlier this year, La MaMa ETC. completed the renovation and restoration of its original theater building at 74A East 4th Street. The individually landmarked building, constructed in 1873 as a German professional orchestral musicians’ association in the heart of what was then New York’s “Kleindeutschland,” later became home to a German singing society, several public meeting and dance halls, the Newsboys Athletic Hall, a laundry, and a meatpacking plant. In the late 1960s, however, it was rescued from abandonment by the scrappy new Off-Off-Broadway theater organization founded by Ellen Stewart, which would become an incomparable powerhouse in its field.
A years long renovation has restored the building to its historic glory, greatly expanded its capacity to serve artists and the public, and won awards and accolades from across the city, including from Village Preservation at our 2023 Annual Village Awards.
La MaMa ETC will be joining Village Preservation to convene a panel discussion and presentation by experts from the theater and the restoration team about the work to transform this beloved historic landmark, followed by a tour of the sparkling new space. Spaces are limited. The Event will take place on Wednesday, July 12th at 6:00pm with pre-registration (spaces are limited). This is a Free and in-person event.
“Founded in 1961 by theatre legend Ellen Stewart, La MaMa is the only original Off-Off-Broadway venue still in operation. Ellen established La MaMa as a haven for underrepresented artists to experiment with new work, without the pressures of commercial success. Today, we maintain an environment of uncensored creative freedom, where artists of all backgrounds and identities can develop work that pushes the boundaries of what is possible onstage.”….. La MaMa history
The website goes on to say that La MaMa has supported more than 5,000 productions, featuring 150,000 artists from 70 nations. Artists nurtured at La MaMa include: Blue Man Group, Ping Chong, Tisa Chang, André De Shields, Olympia Dukakis, Tom Eyen, Harvey Fierstein, Richard Foreman, Philip Glass, Diane Lane, Taylor Mac, Bette Midler, Meredith Monk, Tom O’Horgan, Estelle Parsons, David and Amy Sedaris, Sam Shepard, Elizabeth Swados, Julie Taymor, Robert Wilson, and others.
The renovation and revitalization of the 12,000 square-foot space was completed in 2023 at a cost of $24 million. Public support provided by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council with special thanks to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilmember Carlina Rivera
Office of the Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer; New York State Council on the Arts; New York State Legislature with special thanks to Senator Brad Hoylman; The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. Additional funding by private capital campaign donors including Harvey Fierstein, who donated a $250,000 matching grant to help complete the renovation and restoration.
About the original building as concluded by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission ~ ASCHENBROEDEL VEREIN (later GESANGVEREIN SCHILLERBUND/ now LA MAMA EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE CLUB) BUILDING, 74 East 4th Street, Manhattan
On the basis of a careful consideration of the history, the architecture, and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the Aschenbroedel Verein (later Gesangverein Schillerbund/ now La Mama Experimental Theatre Club) Building has a special character and a special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural characteristics of New York City.
The Commission further finds that, among its important qualities, the four-story, red brick-clad Aschenbroedel Verein Building, in today’s East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1873 to the design of German-born architect August H. Blankenstein for this German-American professional orchestral musicians’ social and benevolent association; that founded informally in 1860, the Aschenbroedel Verein had grown large enough by 1866 for the society to purchase this site and eventually construct the purpose-built structure, becoming one of the leading German organizations in Kleindeutschland on the Lower East Side and counting as members many of the most important musicians in the city, at a time when German-Americans dominated the orchestral scene, including conductors Carl Bergmann, Theodore Thomas and Walter Damrosch, and the musicians of the New York Philharmonic and Theodore Thomas Orchestras; that after the Aschenbroedel Verein moved to Yorkville in 1892, this building was subsequently owned for four years by the Gesangverein Schillerbund, one of the city’s leading and oldest German singing societies; that the design of the main facade, altered at this time with the addition of cast-iron ornament by German-born architects [Frederick William] Kurtzer & [Richard O.L.] Rohl, combines elements of the German Renaissance Revival and neo-Grec styles with folk motifs (including hearts), and features a variety of pedimented lintels, quoins, fraktur-like incising, three composers’ busts over the second-story windows, and a prominent cornice with a large broken pediment; that after 1895, the building housed a variety of disparate uses, including a series of public meeting and dance halls, the Newsboys’ Athletic Club, a laundry, and a meatpacking plant; that since 1969, it has been the home of the renowned La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, established in 1961 by Ellen Stewart, and today considered the oldest and most influential off-Off-Broadway theater in New York City; and that the building remains one of the significant reminders of 19th-century German-American cultural contributions to New York City, as well as the continuing vitality of off-Off-Broadway theater in the East Village….. Robert B. Tierney, Chair; Pablo E. Vengochea, Vice Chair Stephen F. Byrns, Roberta Brandes Gratz, Christopher Moore, Elizabeth Ryan, Roberta Washington, Commissioners, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Built 1873, August H. Blankenstein, architect; facade altered 1892, [Frederick William] Kurtzer & [Richard O.L.] Rohl, architects
La MaMa is the only theatre of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway movement’s four core theaters that continues to thrive today.
La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York is located 74A East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue in the East Village. It was designated an Individual Landmark in 2009.