Add one more theatre to the burgeoning Off-Broadway scene rising around and north of Union Square. The Blue Heron Theater will in July begin construction on a new space housing two theatres on E. 24th Street just off Madison Square. The venue, to be called the Blue Heron Theatre Center, is only the latest product of a downtown development spree which has seen the recent openings of the Daryl Roth Theatre on the east side of Union Square and the Gramercy Theatre on E. 23rd Street.
The 10-year-old Blue Heron will sculpt a two-theatre complex out of an old industrial building between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue most recently used as a health club. The center will include one theatre with a 23-foot wide stage and 99 fixed seats (though up to 140 seats may be accommodated). The second theatre will be a black box with a 17-foot wide stage and a seating capacity of 50-60. The center will also feature an art gallery and, on a lower level, three rehearsal studios.
Gary Bernstein, managing director of the Blue Heron, said the company planned to open the studios in September and christen the theatre in November with a production of Matthew Witten's Sacred Journey. The $500,000 needed to renovate the building is already in place.
The complex will not be used solely for Blue Heron productions, said Bernstein. Indeed, the theatre is currently in discussions with several other theatrical troupes and dance companies interested in residencies at the center. Bernstein said the presentations at the theatre will be so varied, ranging from music events and poetry readings, that the building may be renamed the Blue Heron Arts Center. Anyone interested in renting the space for any reason can contact the theatre at (212) 580-3019.
Blue Heron's current offering is Tom Gibbons' Black Russian, which plays at the Theatre Row Theatre through June 21. Other notable past productions include A Tattle Tale and We Are Your Sisters. Other theatres already operating in the Union Square district include the Variety Arts Theatre, the Union Square Theatre, the Vineyard Theatre, and the Century Center.
-- By Robert Simonson