Lafayette Theatre (Harlem)


Lafayette Theatre (Harlem)

The Lafayette Theatre, also known as "the House Beautiful," was an entertainment venue located at 132nd Street and 7th Avenue in Harlem, New York. It was the first New York theater to desegregate, as early as 1912. Here, African-American theatergoers were allowed to sit in orchestra seats instead of the balcony, to which they were relegated in other New York theaters. The Lafayette Players, the resident stock company, played before almost exclusively African-American audiences both in plays from white theater repertory and in the classics. The theater seated 2,000 and presented such Broadway hits as "Madame X" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

The Lafayette Theatre reached the height of its fame with Shakespeare's "Macbeth", arranged and staged by Orson Welles from 14 April to 20 June 1936, a production of the Federal Theatre Project which was part of the Works Project Administration. The overture was by James P. Johnson and such notable actors as Canada Lee and Rose McClendon were part of the program. This production came to be known as the "Voodoo Macbeth" because of the various African elements employed in it.

Management changed several times and the theater was eventually turned into a vaudeville house; later it became a movie theater and finally a church.


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