New York University: New Theater at NYU Named “The African Grove Theatre” to Honor a Landmark of Black Theater History

NYU’s 181 Mercer Street building, opening spring 2023, will become home to a permanent and evolving memorial to the African Grove Theatre, the first Black theater in the country that made history on the corner of Mercer and Bleecker Streets in 1821.

A new theater—built on the footprint of the original—will be named “The African Grove Theatre” and be used for NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ acclaimed Graduate Acting and Design for Stage and Film programs. The space will offer ongoing theatrical performance, historical displays, educational programming, and teaching and learning opportunities to promote the groundbreaking legacy of the original African Grove Theatre as a beacon for Black artists and performers—an impact that still has immense resonance today.

The theater is one of several performance spaces in the Mercer Street building offering state-of-the-art facilities for student productions in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

“The NYU community has its roots in the collective histories of New York City and is proud to call Greenwich Village home. It’s crucial that we make space for the powerful stories and legacies of these Black artists; to celebrate their triumphs and travails, so that it can inspire future generations of theater makers as they continue to experiment, innovate, and elevate artistic expression at NYU and beyond for years to come. As an institution renowned for graduating some of the most visionary artists and cultural leaders of their time, we have a unique opportunity to uplift the local histories and cultural pioneers who laid the groundwork for the evolution of the performing arts from the early 1800s to today,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton.

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