The Heckscher Theatre opened in 1922 under the auspices of the Heckscher Foundation for Children. Originally intended to house free productions for orphans and sick children, the Heckscher went on to produce W.P.A. Federal Theatre Project's Theatre for Youth program in the 1930s. Later, as an off-off-Broadway theatre, the venue premiered Mama, I Want to Sing on March 23, 1983. The gospel musical became one of the longest-running shows in off-off-Broadway history, playing over 2,000 performances.