The 248-seat venue at 115 MacDougal Street at Minetta Lane, in the heart of Greenwich Village, has been purchased by native New York City musician Michael Sgouros. The theatre will re-open in mid-October after some upgrades, including new carpeting, paint and light fixtures.
Renovations have begun on the theatre as well as its five rehearsal studios. In addition, Sgouros is creating an office suite with individual work stations available to small theatre companies — troupes he said he hopes will eventually rent the main theatre for performances.
The re-do of the Players comes at a time when Off-Broadway houses are being torn down or turned into shops or condos. Recently closed Off-Broadway theatres include the Promenade, Sullivan Street, Circle in the Square Downtown, the Houseman, the Fairbanks, Variety Arts and Perry Street.
Sgouros, a classical percussionist and a faculty member at Molloy College and Queens College, knows what it's like to be part of an arts group searching for a place to perform, so he brings an artist's eye to his role of landlord, he told Playbill.com.
Sgouros, 39, doesn't call himself a producer. He's a landlord who is also an arts advocate. Sgouros expects an eclectic mix of work, anchored by resident theatre companies, including Amas Musical Theatre. A weekly music series will offer emerging or established bands or ensembles (local or national) a regular home. The Players Theatre will offer a weekly Sunday morning family music series called Percussion People featuring interactive activities for all ages. In addition, expect a showcase for New York City's emerging filmmakers.
"I've been looking for a theatre for a while and in early May I was in the area with my wife and we happened to be walking — and on our way to go eat we saw a 'for sale' sign," Sgouros said.
He said the 1907 building (to which an addition was added in 1909) is "in great shape."
"We are doing some cosmetic renovations to the theatre, and we plan to soundproof the studios over the next few years," he said.
The space had many uses over the years, including a horse stable and garage, and became a theatre in the late 1950s.
The landlord also hopes to have more collaborations with tenant, Café Wha?, the famed basement music club that was a hangout for Allen Ginsburg, Abbie Hoffman and Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Kool and the Gang, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor are some of the performers who began their careers at Café Wha?
Sgouros became a theatre owner because "the road was wearing me down." He is a member of Ethos Percussion Group.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for someone to come in and present themselves," he said. "[In Ethos Percussion Group], we found over the years that we would be starting from scratch every time we were to play a date. [The Players Theatre] would like to be the home venue for companies — so they are not starting from scratch."
Sgouros said hopes the first year of the operation will see 30 weeks of performances in the flexible 199-248 seat proscenium house.
The Players Theatre will also provide publicity and marketing support to producers and concert presenters.
For more information, visit www.theplayerstheatre.com.