Our mission is inextricably linked to the history of this American original: to cultivate an urban artist colony, perpetuate our groundbreaking heritage and engage audiences as partners in creating theater that illuminates contemporary issues and, at its best, transforms the spirit.
In 1924 a group of artists, all colleagues of Edna St. Vincent Millay, converted a box factory into a theater they called Cherry Lane Playhouse. It fueled some of the most groundbreaking experiments in the chronicles of the American stage. The Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, and the Downtown Theater movement all took root at the Playhouse, and it proved fertile ground for scores of twentieth century dramaturgy’s seminal voices. Out of a small edifice poured a large succession of plays by a decades-spanning parade of then-nascent writers whose works have lent brilliance and distinction to the American and international literary and dramatic treasuries, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, and Elmer Rice in the 20s, to O’Neill, O’Casey, Odets, Auden, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, and William Saroyan in the 40s and 50s, to Beckett, Albee, Pinter, Ionesco, and LeRoi Jones in the 60s, to Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Joe Orton, and David Mamet in the 70s and 80s. The Playhouse productions featured an equally illustrious group of actors and directors, including John Malkovich, Barbra Streisand, Ruby Dee, Gene Hackman, Beatrice Arthur, James Earl Jones, Colleen Dewhurst, Vincent Gardenia, Cicely Tyson, Alan Schneider, Dolores Sutton, Harvey Keitel, Judd Hirsch, Claudia Shear, Gary Sinise, Jerry Stiller, Rue McClanahan, Maxwell Caulfield, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Fritz Weaver, Roy Scheider, Frances Sternhagen, F. Murray Abraham, Joan Micklin Silver, Peter Falk, Tom Bosley, Micki Grant, Frank Langella, Kim Stanley, John Epperson, Tyne Daly, Robert Loggia, Estelle Parsons, Kevin Bacon, Nancy Marchand, Dennis Quaid, Joan Cusack, and Joseph Chaikin.
In 1996, Angelina Fiordellisi felt the palpable resonance of this heritage and made a commitment to revive that spirit and provide opportunities for the bold new voices of today. She revitalized Cherry Lane Theatre and within one year founded a resident non-profit company. Her vision is based on sustaining a community of playwrights and supporting seasoned and emerging theater artists that work together to reveal the social consciousness of our ever-changing world. In this way, CLT company serves the cultural needs of the larger New York City community, while developing a dedicated, returning audience. It is Cherry Lane 's guiding tenet that "live" theater be accessible, articulate and provide a social mirror through which we gain greater understanding of ourselves, our families, our government and our global community. We challenge ourselves to explore the horizons of theatrical content and form, to expand our creative boundaries, and to discover the future of American drama.