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but you guys do digress.
The night the Dead played was truly remarkable. The house was packed and people stood “armpit to armpit!” There was a sense of awe and excitement that the Greatful Dead had come to Brooklyn and to Boropark no less! Garcia’s piercing solos, the visceral base riffs and the songs we all knew… oh what an affirmation. We were part of a bigger world and the world knew we were here. Our ears rang for a week afterwards. Then it was a good thing. Now we call it tinnitus.
Keep the faith!
I did indeed take my handle from “The Glenwood School” (supposedly the original name of P.S. 152. I am also familiar with the Junction Bar…but never was a patron of said saloon. I believe that my younger brother met his wife there though! Can’t say that I knew Sue Byrne and I’m sorry that I missed hearing her play. I am 52 years old…and was guessing at my approximate age when I saw 13 Ghosts!
I left Brooklyn for college in Vermont in 1970. After college I lived in Manhattan for several years. I moved out of NYC in 1978…and now live in the Southeast.
I grew up in Flatbush – within walking distance of the RKO on Church Av. and the Rialto and Lowes on Flatbush Ave. There were others in the area, one small theater very close to “the junction” of Flatbush and Nostrand Aves called the College Theater and another north of the junction on Flatbush near Farragut Road. This latter theater was converted into a bowling alley and was right next to Cohen’s bike shop. The RKO sat directly accross the street from the “Peter Styversant Church” one of the oldest in the borough. It had an equally aged cemetary behind it. I saw the 3-D version of Thirteen Ghosts at the old RKO – at night for a 9 year old’s birthday party. At the end of the film – there wasn’t a stop watch fast enough to have timed us running to the safety of the old Plymouth!
Seems like we had a great selection of theaters back in the day (1950’s – 1970) Now we have DVDs and tapes and Limewire and Napster and so on. What a loss to us all!
I no longer live in NYC. If there is a new Yiddish theater scene – I’m delighted to know about it. I was not aware of one in the past. Thanks for the note.
Between 1890 and 1940, there were over 200 Yiddish theaters or touring Yiddish theater troupes in the United States. At many times, a dozen Yiddish theatre groups existed in New York City alone, with a theater district centered on Second Avenue that often rivaled Broadway in scale and quality. At the time the U.S. entered World War I, there were 22 Yiddish theaters and 2 Yiddish vaudeville houses in New York City alone. [Adler, 1999, 370 (commentary)] Original plays, musicals, and even translations of Hamlet and Richard Wagner’s operas were performed, both in the United States and Eastern Europe during this period.
Yiddish theatre is said to have two artistic golden ages, the first in the realistic plays produced in New York City in the late 1800s, and the second in the political and artistic plays written and performed in Russia and New York in the 1920s. Professional Yiddish theater in New York began in 1882 with a troupe founded by Boris Tomashefsky. At the time of Goldfaden’s funeral in 1908, the New York Times wrote, “The dense Jewish population on the lower east side of Manhattan shows in its appreciation of its own humble Yiddish poetry and the drama much the same spirit that controlled the rough audiences of the Elizabethan theater. There, as in the London of the sixteenth century, is a veritable intellectual renascence.”
At the time of the opening of the Grand Theater in New York (1903), New York’s first purpose-built Yiddish theater, the New York Times noted, “That the Yiddish population is composed of confirmed theatergoers has been evident for a long time, and for many years at least three theaters, which had served their day of uefulness for the English dramas, have been pressed into service, providing amusement for the people of the Ghetto.” (For more on the Grand Theater, see Sophia Karp.)
(from View link)
Walking down Second Avenue on the lower east side of Manhattan, it is hard to believe that the neighborhood was once dominated by Yiddish theater.
Hardly a trace remains of the thriving center of popular entertainment that once flourished in this area during the early to mid-20th century. It was there that highly popular, charismatic stars such as Aaron Lebedeff, Jennie Goldstein and Molly Picon performed to sold-out audiences in shows ranging from light musical comedies to melodramas, with titles such as Der berditchever khosn (The Bridegroom from Berditchev) and Der dishvasher (The Dishwasher).
Music halls were filled with Yiddish vaudeville acts, entertaining audiences with a variety of songs, revues, skits and one-act sketches. Yiddish films such as Yidl mitn fidl (Yidl with His Fiddle) played to packed houses in Second Avenue cinemas and Yiddish songs poured out of the radio, some taken from the shows being performed in the theaters, some written exclusively for broadcast or recordings.
Today the only visible evidence of that glorious past in lower Manhattan is a series of plaques featuring the names of Yiddish theater celebrities that adorn the sidewalk outside the Second Avenue Deli. None of the old theaters remain. Even the famous Yiddish Art Theater, which provided more sophisticated, literate dramatic works than the light entertainment of the popular Yiddish theater, is now an East Village cineplex.
The theaters are not the only elements of Yiddish theater’s heyday that no longer exist; much of the music is also gone. While recordings and sheet music of individual songs associated with the Yiddish theater remain, there exist no complete or authoritative orchestrations of Yiddish theater or vaudeville songs.
So my friend, there might still be a place in Boro Park for a gloriously restored theater! Be well.
and Martha Schlamme…
Another possible approach would be to have the theater designated as a historical landmark. This would at least keep the building from further “improvements” and help avoid demolition. I’m sure the present owners might object – but that would be where folks like you Theaterat could be very helpful! By the way, your description of the area and accessability issues does not sound at all different than back in November of 1970! The biggest difference might be the influx of Hispanics and folks from Eastern Europe. These folks might have more interest in a community based theater than the more insular Hassidic community…then again 2nd Avenue in NYC used to boast that it was the Yiddish Gay White way in the 1920’s. But that is another story!
I agree with Mike M. Knoxville and Atlanta have worked hard to show that jewelslike the Lowes 46th Street theater can be reborn. If the solid bones are still in place it takes artisans, passionate supporters and money to put it in place. Then it takes innovative managment to assure bookings that will draw a steady stream of admirers for what is shown on the screen/stage and the theater itself.
Along with the Tennessee Theater – Bill Snyder is another municipal jewel. His enthusiasm for the theater, love of music and deft touch on the keyboard has been crucial to the rebirth of this wonderful concert hall, movie theater, bragging right!!!!
Knoxville Tennessee recently completed a $23 million restoration of it’s vintage TENNESSEE THEATER (The beautiful Tennessee Theatre is a jewel of historic Knoxville, located in the heart of Downtown. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, “Knoxville’s Grand Entertainment Palace” has something for everyone: classical music, vintage films, dance, theater, and stellar performances by today’s hottest musicians.)http://www.tennesseetheatre.com/default.aspx?typeid=6&main=main_news It now rivals the Fox Theater in Atlanta. A second jewel, the Bijou is moribund awaiting underwriting for rennovations as well. Since the Tennessee Theater reopened it has hosted The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Earl Scruggs, and a sold out Valentine’s Day screening of Casablanca! If you are ever in town – check out this beautiful Moorish theater.
I attended a Greatful Dead concert on 11/11/1970 held in the 46th St. theater. While not on any mood enhancing drugs, I have little recall for the content of the concert. What I do recall is the theater. It had a blue domed ceiling. There were Grecian statues between columns around the orchestra section of the theater. There may have been clouds painted on the ceiling. I also recall that the combined sound of the band and the trains rumbling outside made plaster dust fall from the ceiling. I left the show early – the house was oversold, the noise was too much and I was convinced the building would collapse. It didn’t.