MCC Theater Inaugurates First Permanent Home

by Howard Sherman

With the dropping of a bevy of red, black, white balloons, Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater inaugurated the company’s first permanent home, The Robert W. Wilson Theater Space on West 52nd Street in Manhattan. The company, led by artistic directors Bernard Telsey, Robert LuPone, and William Cantler and executive director Blake West, has been an itinerant company throughout its history, most recently completing a 14-year tenancy at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village.

While the fit-out of the new facility was not yet complete – lobby accoutrements had yet to be installed, while office furniture was being assembled prior to staff move in just days away – the speakers on the inaugural program repeatedly returned to the theme of home and community. LuPone stated, “Today we stop running around town, for the first time, we are home.” Playwright Jocelyn Bioh, whose School Girls was a recent hit for MCC, said, “There is a power to being able to walk into a space and call it home.” However, of the company’s history dating back to its very first seasons, after recalling his earliest work with the artistic triumvirate, playwright and MCC board member Peter Hedges remarked, “We had a home because we had each other.”
The Newman Mills Theater at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space. Photo: Da Ping Luo.

The new facility, which totals 27,000 square feet, includes the 245-seat proscenium Newman Mills Theater and the 100-seat black box Susan and Ronald Frankel Theatre, as well as two studio spaces, dressing rooms, wardrobe space and office. West noted that with the assemblage of spaces, “Anyone we deal with will be under this roof.” The celebration also included the announcement that every performance in the Newman Mills Theater would make front row seats available for $30 each.

The theatre design is by Andrew Berman Architect along with theater consulation by Auerbach Pollack Friedlander, acoustic design by Akustiks, MEP design by Altieri Sebor Wieber, structural design by Gilsanz Murray Steficek, and lighting design by Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design. Fundraising for the facility was part of a $45 million capital campaign, with $28 million of that provided by the City of New York.
MCC Opening (Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Department of Design and Construction Lorraine Grillo, MCC Artistic Director William Cantler, MCC Artistic Director Robert LuPone, Playwright Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Board Member Julianna Margulies, MCC Artistic Director Bernard Telsey, MCC Board Member Peter Hedges, MCC Board Chair Susan Raanan, and Executive Director Blake West) Photo: Howard Sherman

The Frankel Theater will open first, with performances beginning January 23 on The Light by Loy A. Webb, with the Newman Mills debuting one week later with first preview of the musical Alice by Heart, with a book by Steven Sater with Jessie Nelson, music by Duncan Sheik, and lyrics by Sater.

Capping the ceremony MCC board member and Honorary Co-Chair of the capital campaign, actor Julianna Margulies expressed her deep commitment to and affection for MCC, saying, “If nothing had happened for me in my career, I would still want to be here and be a part of this.”

Further information from MCC Theater: