By Robert Simonson
22 Jun 2012
Ask Playbill.com answers your (and sometimes our own) theatre-related questions. To ask a question, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com. Please specify how you would like your name displayed and please include the city in which you live.
Question: What is the address of the Stage Door Canteen on West 44th Street? —Michael Manning, New York, NY
In 1940 the New York Times bought the theatre, and leased it to producer and theatre owner Lee Shubert. When Shubert was approached by the American Theatre Wing with the idea of running a soldiers' canteen out of the basement space, he waived the rent and donated the property free of charge. Heather A. Hitchens, executive director of the Wing, told Playbill.com that "some people are surprised" that the American Theatre Wing was founded as the Stage Women's War Relief Fund. "We were founded at the advent of the First World War and the canteens were formed during World War II," she said. "It was a way to give back."
Actresses Selena Royle and Jane Cowl were co-chairs of the Canteen Committee. The idea was simple, but ingenious. The acting community would do everything. Certainly, they would perform; that would be the primary attraction of the Canteen — not just songs and comedy bits, but compressed versions of the plays and musicals then playing on Broadway. Actresses also did duty as hostesses and dancing partners. Actors worked as waiters, busboys, dishwashers and dancing partners. At the initial recruiting event for canteen volunteers, 700 actors and actresses showed up.Continued...