Brooklyn Sees Stars

April 7, 2009 - June 13, 2009
Central Library, Grand Lobby
Brooklyn Sees Stars

by The Theatre Museum

When one thinks about "New York theatre," we forget to look beyond the flashing lights of Broadway, let alone past the East River! That's unfortunate, because Brooklyn has had a vibrant theatre scene since the Dutch settled here in the 1660s. Many of our nation's greatest theatre writers, producers and actors have been proud Brooklynites: Arthur Miller, Lauren Bacall, Barbra Streisand, Mel Brooks. The list goes on.

Brooklyn theatres once comprised a storied past, but now gems like The Park, Montauk and Orpheum exist only in photos. Only a few, like the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and the Majestic, still entertain sold-out crowds today.

The Brooklyn theatre scene has always mirrored our nation's history. Though the British had banned theatrical productions during the American Revolution, the theatre scene blossomed afterwards, reflecting the tastes and values of the arriving waves of immigrants. Productions with Polish and Russian names began to appear in marquee lights next to the works of Moliére and Shakespeare.

By the turn of the 20th century, theatre in Brooklyn no longer simply meant drama; it included musicals, vaudeville, burlesque and nickelodeons. Brooklyn's theatres satisfied all,from tuxedoed crowds taking in Hamlet at the Majestic to beachcombers gawking at Coney Island's freak shows.

As everywhere else, Brooklyn's theatre districts staggered under the blow of economic depression and the intoxicating allure of television. By the mid-1950s, Brooklyn's traditional entertainment industry found it hard to compete with sitcoms. By the end of the century, many of the grand dames of Brooklyn theatre-the Bijou, the Park and the Fox-succumbed to the wrecking ball.

Recently, however, Brooklyn theatre has seen a renaissance. The Brooklyn Cultural District continues to expand, and those attending BAM's world-acclaimed productions need no convincing that Brooklyn star power shines at a megawatt glow.

BPL Exhibition, The Theatre MuseumThe Theatre Museum was founded in 2003. Its mission is to preserve, promote and perpetuate the legacy of the theatre, with a focus in theatre arts education and theatre history preservation. As a museum-at-large, it works in collaboration with cultural institutions throughout New York City and State. Its programming intends to present this glorious history to create appreciation for our cultural heritage and help us better understand our place in society.


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