The whole effort will cost $2.145 million. The new space will be unveiled at the Cherry Lane Spring Gala on April 3. The capital campaign will continue until 2008.
During the silent phase of the campaign, funding was awarded from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; The Office of the Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields; The New York City Council, Councilmember Christine C. Quinn, 3rd District, Cherry Lane Theatre Board of Directors; and anonymous donors to support this renovation.
The 129-year-old buidling, which began life in 1817 as a silo, will receive an enhanced, transparent entrance to its lobby and box office, allowing people inside views of Commerce and Barrow Street outside. In addition, the stone paving outside the theatre will now extend inside. The lobby itself will be renovated. Bathrooms will double in size, and new air conditioning and heating units will be installed, contained within new coffered ceilings.
The stage opening to the house will be expanded, and new seats, set in a new pattern, will be larger and provide more legroom than before. Sightlines have been improved. Stage lighting and sound systems have been upgraded, as have the backstage dressing rooms and toilet facilities, technicians' control booth.
The theatre walls will be lined with smooth-finished cherry wood slats ornamented with hand-carved floral medallions through which the original brick walls of the building can be seen. According to a spokesman, during construction a worker found a small stash of cash between the floorboards of one of the upper floors.
The theatre, a former silo, was converted into a theatre in 1924 by poet playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay and a group of her friends, long before the term Off-Broadway was coined. It housed productions by F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos in the '20s and works by Gertrude Stein, Odets and O'Casey in the '40s. In the early '50s, it was home to some early productions of the avant garde group The Living Theatre. Beckett's Endgame was produced there in 1957, followed by Happy Days in 1961. In between came the premieres of Edward Albee's The American Dream and Jack Richardson's Gallow Humor. Leroi Jones' Dutchman was staged in 1964. Early works by Lanford Wilson and Sam Shepherd were showcased the next year.
The street was once a rural path lined by the cherry trees of the Gomez farm.