Founded in 1961 by African American theater producer and director Ellen Stewart, the off-off-Broadway theater made its first permanent home at 74 East 4th Street in 1969. Completed in 1873 for the German-American orchestral society Aschenbroedel Verein, the property has long been a New York City landmark.
La MaMa began its work with Beyer Blinder Belle in 2015, alongside theater consultant Jean Guy Lecat and acoustic consultant Charcoalblue, in a bid to upgrade the club's original home. The resulting project included a reconfiguration of the main performance venue, the addition of a new theater workshop and event space, and improved patron and performer support areas. Additionally, the makeover includes other upgrades which have brought building up to code and restored its historic facade.
Major changes include the lowering of the first-floor ceiling to expand the performance venue above, as well as an expanded lobby, new all-gender bathrooms, and a larger dressing room. Additionally, the lobby serves as an event and prefunction space, with capacity for limited food and beverage service.
As part of the return of the building to its 1880s appearance, a glass and aluminum storefront with cast-iron pilasters allows passersby to look into the interior of the building for the first time in years.
On the third floor, a new multipurpose space provides room for small performances, as well as rehearsals, community programs, and private functions. This space also opens onto a rear-facing outdoor terrace.
Staff offices are located on the fourth floor.
“There’s a lot of musical and performance history in that building,” says Richard Metsky of Beyer Blinder Belle in a news release. “We wanted to carry that history forward, to create a space that enables La MaMa to remain at the forefront of experimental theater for the next 50 years.”
- East Village (Urbanize NYC)