“Historically, the West Village has always been artist friendly, especially to theater,” says Danny Feldman, managing director of Labyrinth Theater Company. The Village’s quiet, tree-lined streets have always offered a cheaper alternative to Broadway.
Despite the neighborhood’s rich history, theater has floundered here for the past few decades. It seemed to many that the Village’s long tradition as the hub of off-Broadway had come to an end. The ’90’s saw the steepest part of this decline, as many stalwart companies shuttered–Circle Repertory Theater and Ridiculous Theater among them. New York Theater Workshop left Perry Street for its own space in the East Village. NYU scooped up the struggling Provincetown Theater and closed it to the public, “for educational use.” The historic Lucille Lortel Theater was dark more often than not. The historic Minnetta Lane has not had a true hit since Jeffery closed in 1994. The theater biz had moved uptown to bigger, glitzier lights–and greater revenues.
But over the past decade, a quiet transformation has occurred. This summer the West Village exploded with the edgy work that makes off-Broadway what it is. Once again, stars light up the stage in intimate venues and can be seen for the price of a Manhattan dinner. All this in a neighborhood easily accessible by subway from most of the city and many Jersey suburbs. In fact, it’s fair to say that the Village is on the verge of being a happening theater scene once again. Why? Because theaters are adapting to the changing landscape of the world around them.
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