Friday, April 25, 2008


There's already been an outpouring of fury and concern from the theatre community about NYU's proposal to demolish the historic and iconic Provincetown Playhouse.

First things first, though -- some of you have asked me where I got the information from. If you look at my first post on this, you'll see a link to the article that got this going.

However, here is the link one more time:

Meantime, my friend Sean Cullen, who in addition to being in the cast of South Pacific is the founder and president of The American National Theatre, is one of a slew of people who have already contacted NYU Demolisher-in-Chief John Sexton. His letter is exquisitely written:

Dear President Sexton,

I just read online the article in The Villager's April 23rd edition that reports on NYU's plans to raise the building which houses the Provincetown Playhouse, so that another building -- with theatre included -- can be built in its place. I'm sure the rich and important history of the Playhouse is very well known to you, so I won't reiterate or belabor that here.

However, I will state my belief that your school, as one of the primary landholders in both the East and West Villages -- indeed, throughout Manhattan -- has a duty and burden of stewardship not only to your institution and students, but to those neighborhoods and communities where its properties exist. I'm sure you realize this, of course, and the forming of the "Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development" would seem on first sight to be a recognition of it.

I wonder, though, what the recommendation for the existing MacDougal St. building might be of a hypothetical group called the "N.Y.U. Task Force on Community Development." The hypothetical shift in name is a small one, but substantial, and I think it puts N.Y.U.'s relationship to its home neighborhoods and home city exactly where it belongs at this point in time.

I urge you and the other key decision makers at N.Y.U. to reconsider uses for 133-139 MacDougal St. as it exists today, uses that will both serve the University and preserve an important theatrical and cultural American landmark. In fact, I strongly encourage you to make the Provincetown Playhouse available for shared usage by the school and the public once more, in order to restore the Playhouse as a fully working, living and vital theatre -- and so help to restore the artistic vibrancy of the West Village. (A partnership, for instance, with Manhattan Theatre Source at Washington Square Park might accomplish this very well.)

Finally, I believe that such a step would serve the community and public relations of N.Y.U. extremely well, while sending another clear signal to New York and its other land-owning institutions that your university recognizes the importance, literally, of and to its place in our city.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.


Sean Cullen
Founder & President
The American National Theatre, Inc.

In addition, here is an amazing letter that was just sent to Sexton's office via fax.

Now, today I have been spending part of my day emailing my entire list, for step one in this process must be to rally the theatre community in its entirety. I ask you, therefore, to please call and email NYU President John Sexton at 212-998-2345 and and convey your views.

If you agree that the demolition of the Provincetown Playhouse is no less than crime against the American theatre, let this man know what kind of fury he will be unleashing.

In addition, I am announcing that I am joining Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and his campaign to stop NYU from acting on this outrageous proposal. It was disheartening enough when NYU, following its renovation of the Playhouse, removed it from the market for commercial and nonprofit producers. To demolish it would be absolutely unspeakable.

I quote from the article cited above:

"Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he opposed the project.

“There’s no reason to demolish a building that is so important to the history of the Village, New York City and the history of the theater,” Berman said.

In an April 18 letter to John Sexton, N.Y.U.’s president, Berman cited one of the N.Y.U. planning principles that calls for reuse of existing buildings before new development...."

If you like, when you email John Sexton (and please don't forget to call, too), please signal your support for this effort by cc'ing Mr. Berman at

Sphere: Related Content


Unknown said...

President Sexton's action in this case is ill-advised and I am solidly opposed to demolishing the historic Provinetown Playhouse. I also can't begin to express my consternation at your rhetorical name-calling of Mr. Sexton. Without going back through the text, I can recall "animal" and something like "demolisher-in-chief." Also, there's no evidence of malice on his part, much less "all the malice he can summon." I wish I could endorse you as the speaker for me in this cause because I am far from home and need one, and because I know you to be of unparalelled intelligence, eloquent, witty, and very much above this name-calling when you choose to be. Please don't toss the other camp easy points this way. Don't let them dismiss your good points by using bad manners.

Leonard Jacobs said...

I call them as I see them. Sorry.