Unhappy news from the New York theater front, regarding a venue where I saw many a provocation:
"The Ohio Theatre, a pillar of New York’s downtown theatre scene for 29 years, will close on August 31, 2010. The new landlord has issued official notice and no further negotiations are scheduled.
Located at 66 Wooster Street, The Ohio Theatre was one of Soho’s pioneering performance spaces and is now one of the last remaining. The not-for-profit theatre company Soho Think Tank runs the space under the direction of artistic director Robert Lyons. Lyons says, “It’s where Tony Kushner produced his first play out of college, where Philip Seymour Hoffman made his professional acting debut, where Eve Ensler performed Dicks in the Desert, a decade before writing The Vagina Monologues. The Ohio Theatre has been an incubator and platform for New York’s most exciting and innovative theatre artists for almost 30 years. Its closing emphatically punctuates the end of an era in Soho, and stands as a high profile casualty in the relentless decimation of the lower Manhattan theatre landscape.”
To mark this traumatic event, the Ohio Theatre will be providing a space on their website, where artists and audience members will be able to post their thoughts, memories and experiences at the theatre. Robert Lyons goes on to say, “There will also be a place for artists who have performed at the Ohio Theatre to post production photos. We especially encourage those with pre-digital photos to take the time to scan and post them. Literally thousands of theatrical events have taken place at the Ohio over the last 29 years and we would like to have them ALL represented. We also encourage people to make a donation to help us through what promises to be a difficult transition.”
In the meantime, the current season continues, including preparation for Ice Factory 2010, as well as plans for a major dance party some time this summer.
Soho Think Tank’s short-term priority is to find a home for their signature programs: STT PRESENTS and the Obie award-winning ICE FACTORY Festival. Toward that end, they are currently in discussion with other downtown venues, including HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, PS122 and The Public about their next season.
As for long-term goals, Soho Think Tank has begun discussions with some of the core theatre companies of the Ohio Theatre community about forming a coalition to secure a new space.
Robert Lyons explains, “For 29 years, the Ohio Theatre has embodied the living history of the neighborhood of Soho, continuing the spirit of community and cutting-edge artistic practice that once defined the area. It’s been a host to a generation of the finest, most exciting and widely recognized companies working in NYC in the last three decades and has cultivated a diverse and growing community of artists who are collectively changing the cultural landscape of New York and beyond.”
The critically acclaimed work of these artists and companies has garnered innumerable OBIES, Drama Desk nominations, Off-Broadway transfers, national and international tours, including multiple Edinburgh Fringe First Awards. In 2002, the Ohio Theatre received the Ross Wetzsteon OBIE Award, in recognition of its sustained artistic excellence and contributions to the theatre community.
Today, the Ohio Theatre is one of the last non-commercial arts centers remaining in Soho. It continues to foster an environment of generosity, dialogue and inspiration, where artists take risks and try out new ideas, bringing their work to a new level. One of the most beautiful venues in lower Manhattan, it remains a boon to emerging artists and the viability of experimental theatre in New York City. For this, the Ohio Theatre is widely recognized as an indispensable pillar of downtown Manhattan’s cultural life.
“This is a great loss for the city on many levels. It is the loss of a historic institution, the loss of a vibrant ongoing platform for new work. And it is yet another contribution to the loss of Manhattan’s cultural identity,” says Robert Lyons.