Theatre 80 carries on a generational cultural function, which has helped to create the East Village from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. When Theatre 80 was first envisioned and built at 80 Saint Marks Place, the neighborhood of the Lower East Side was a blighted area and the term East Village had yet to be coined. We were among the first of the cultural institutions, which began the Lower East Side Arts Movement resulting in the neighborhood now being referred to as the East Village.
Beginning during Prohibition, 80 Saint Marks Place was a vital destination for performers of all kinds. Jazz greats such as Thelonious Monk, Harry “Sweets” Edison, John Coltrane and Frank Sinatra performed here before Theatre 80 was established in the former nightclub. The tradition of excellence continues at Theatre 80 where the careers of many famous performers were launched. Some of the famous names are Gary Burghoff, Bob Balaban and even one of our ushers, Billy Crystal. During the 1970s and 80s as a film revival house, people were able to see vintage films on a movie theatre screen in an audience setting in Theatre 80. It was also visited by a host of great names in theater, many of whom left their names, foot and hand prints in the cement of our sidewalk. A partial list includes Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Winnie Shaw and Fifi D’Orsay. Recently, Joan Rivers added her name to the list of luminaries enshrined here.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recently recognized Theatre 80 with the Village Award for its place in the history of the community. We remain relevant to the community, while continuing to recognize and uphold traditions. We present a range of productions from traditional forms such as Shakespearean theater and flamenco dance, to the cutting edge avant-garde and works from new authors. We have helped create new audiences by welcoming both public and private school groups for matinees and tours of the theater which have included schools from as far away as Toronto. We have also provided the theater for free or at reduced rates for community meetings, local film-makers, playwrights, 12 step meetings, memorials for members of the community and we produced a benefit for Japan Tsunami Relief.
With the dedication to making performing arts more accessible, Theatre 80 never stops evolving.