NEW YORK CITY: Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater opened the doors to its first permanent home this morning. Named the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space and located on West 52nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues, it contains two performance venues, two studio spaces, and the theatre’s administrative offices.
Inaugural shows at the new venue will be The Light by Loy A. Webb (on the 100-seat Susan & Ronald Frankel Theater, Jan. 23-March 17), and the world premiere of Alice By Heart by Steven Sater, Jessie Nelson, and Duncan Sheik (on the 245-seat Newman Mills Theater, Jan. 30-March 10).
In addition to producing a full season of productions, MCC Theater also runs an education program, new-work development lab, and a youth theatre company. Standing on the stages of the newly built Newman Mills Theater, executive director Blake West said that the 27,000-square-foot space will put “our diverse slate of programs under one roof for the first time in our history.” MCC Theater had previously performed its seasons at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in West Village, its rental home since 1992.
Besides an opening ceremony and subsequent balloon drop, the leaders of MCC also announced several new initiatives. One includes offering two dozen $30 tickets at every performance on its mainstage, the Newman, and not as rush tickets at the door but offered in advance. MCC is also launching two new development programs, in addition to its existing play development efforts: SongLabs, which will provide assistance to writers creating musical theatre works, and WorkLabs, which will provide artistic residencies to four early-career playwrights.
MCC Theater was co-founded in 1986 by Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, and William Cantler, who all still co-run the company. It has produced such works as The Other Place by Sharr White (which subsequently transferred to Broadway), Wit by Margaret Edson, and most recently School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh. The theatre also produced 10 plays over 15 years by former playwright-in-residence Neil LaBute, including reasons to be pretty, which also transferred to Broadway. Last February LaBute was abruptly dropped from his post at the theatre, which also cancelled a planned production of a LaBute play, Reasons To Be Pretty Happy.
The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space is the product of a $45 million capital campaign and is named after philanthropist Robert W. Wilson. It is designed by Andrew Berman Architects. For his part co-founder Cantler is elated. Speaking in the lobby of the theatre, he enthused about looking forward to what he calls “the alchemy of integration” made possible by having all of MCC’s activities at one address. “For years our youth company was always in borrowed spaces, we didn’t have our own rehearsal spaces. In our early years there were kids who spent three or four years with our youth company who never understood we were a nonprofit theatre company producing these shows.” Now that those young people will have frequent access to professional artists, Cantler is excited for the opportunity for learning and “cross-pollination.”
“It’s taking all of those pieces and being able to amp them up and put them together together and let them feed each other, instead of racing around town trying to get them all to play tag. I think it’s a really profound thing, and I think it’s going to have a huge impact on the company.”