By Kenneth Jones
25 Aug 2011
"With a significantly reduced deficit, a new managing agent and emboldened by an outpouring of support from neighbors in the West Village," Fiordellisi is staying put at 38 Commerce Street, according to a statement. She had announced in December 2010 that it was time to sell.
"I was overwhelmed by the response from my neighbors and the artists who have worked with me at Cherry Lane over the past 15 years," Fiordellisi said in a statement. "I received hundreds of phone calls and emails and visits from people who were concerned to hear that I was leaving and that the theatre was for sale. And when those people started referring rentals to us, I was able to look ahead and feel more secure about the theatre's financial future. It made me feel like I was doing something essential in the community and that I belong here."
Key to her decision to keep the Cherry Lane is the theatre's reduction of a $250,000 deficit "by two-thirds through reductions in staff and expenses, along with a streamlined budget and a steady succession of rentals on Cherry Lane's 179-seat mainstage and its 60-seat Studio Theatre throughout the year."
Fiordellisi expects the deficit will be paid off by January 2012.
As of Aug. 1, the Cherry Lane was being managed by an outside agent, the Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation, which oversees bookings, contracts and expenses for the theatre.
Fiordellisi, founder and artistic director of Cherry Lane Alternative — the resident company at Cherry Lane that produces plays at the space and runs programs including the Obie Award-winning Mentor Project for playwrights — said the non-profit will produce its commission One Night… by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Charles Fuller (A Soldier's Story) in 2012.
On Sept. 11, 2011 at 2 PM, Cherry Lane will present the Tony-nominated actor Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) in Obie-winning playwright Israel Horovitz's Ten Years After Paradise, a solo play about the effects of Sept. 11, 2001, on the world at large and on what Horovitz describes as "my little family," whose son was a student in class at the Stuyvesant High School directly across from the Twin Towers at the time of the attacks. Damien Gray directs.
This new play is a companion piece to Horovitz's 2001 solo work Three Weesk After Paradise, which he wrote in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The earlier play has been presented at Cherry Lane Theatre at various times over the past decade with performances featuring Boyd Gaines, Mark Lynn Baker and the playwright himself.
According to history notes on the Cherry Lane website, "Cherry Lane Theatre was originally the site of a silo on the Gomez Farm in 1817. The building that now stands was erected in 1836 as a brewery, and later served as a tobacco warehouse and eventually box factory.
"In 1924, a group of artists, all colleagues of Edna St. Vincent Millay, commissioned famed scenic designer Cleon Throckmorton to convert the box factory into the theatre called Cherry Lane Playhouse. It fueled some of the most courageous experiments in the chronicles of the American stage. The Downtown Theater movement, The Living Theatre, and Theatre of the Absurd all took root at the lively Playhouse, and it proved fertile ground for scores of the 20th century's seminal theatrical voices.
"A staggering succession of plays have streamed out of the small edifice. Works by a decades-spanning parade of writers whose names have lent brilliance and distinction to the American and international literary and theatrical treasuries. They include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dos Passo, and Elmer Rice in the '20s; O'Neill, O'Casey, Odets, Auden, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, Picasso and William Saroyan in the '40s and '50s; Beckett, Albee, Pinter, Ionesco and LeRoi Jones in the '60s; and Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Joe Orton and Mamet in the '70s and '80s.
Playhouse productions featured an equally illustrious group of actors and directors, including John Malkovich, Barbra Streisand, Geraldine Fitzgerald, James Earl Jones, Tony Curtis, Ruby Dee, Gene Hackman, Bea Arthur (making her stage debut), Fritz Weaver, Judith Malina, Burl Ives, Colleen Dewhurst, Harvey Keitel, Cicely Tyson, Jerry Stiller, James Coco, Dolores Sutton, Shami Chaikin, James Broderick, Lee Strasberg, Roger Bart, Francot Tone, Roscoe Lee Browne, Alan Schneider, Claudia Shear, Anne Revere, Theodore Bikel, Peter Falk, Estelle Parsons, Judd Hirsch, Judith Ivey, Robert Wilson, Maxwell Caulfield, Adolf Green and Betty Comden, Alvin Epstein, Rue McClanahan, Shirley Knight, John Tillinger, Lewis Black, Sudie Bond, Tom Bosley (who also worked in the theatre's box office), Frances Sternhagen, Roy Scheider, James Noble, Geraldine Page, Mark Setlock, Gene Saks, Bob Dylan, F. Murray Abraham, Kiki & Herb, Jo Ann Worley, Joan Micklin Silver, John Rando, Gary Sinise, Vincent Gardenia, Micki Grant, Tony Musante, Rainn Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Kim Stanley, Frank Langella, Tyne Daly, John Epperson, Nancy Marchand, Robert Loggia, Dennis Quaid, Joan Cusack and Joseph Chaikin."
Cherry Lane Studio opened its doors in September 1998 "as a birthing room for new American work." Fiordellisi created the 60-seat black-box theatre, originally named the "Alternative Space," with Samuel Anderson Architects. At that time, "CLT Studio benefited from the generosity of our community, including theatre-operator and producer Carolyn Copeland, who donated 60 chairs from The Lamb's Theater basement, as well as artist and producing board member Jack Gindi, who donated our technical booth, sound and lighting boards."
The seating was upgraded and made retractable in 2006 with a grant provided by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Currently, the studio "is a safe haven for the development of new plays." Programs there "allow playwrights to hone their work without the pressure of reviews, before sophisticated, thrill-seeking audiences, who want to discover the bold new voices of today." David Adjmi, Courtney Baron, Sheila Callaghan, Julia Cho, Bathsheba Doran, Anton Dudley, Sam Forman, Katori Hall, Eliam Kraiem, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Rogelio Martinez, Christopher Shinn, Beau Willimon and numerous others have all developed new ideas and plays at the CLT Studio.