George Gershwin Theatre
The George Gershwin Theatre opened doors for the very first performance of the then new Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College complex in December 1955. On Thursday, December 9th, 2010, the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music presented the final, farewell performance in this venerable 500 seat theatre.
The gala opening in 1955 was a performance by a very young Leontyne Price. And for just over half a century the theatre has hosted thousands of music concerts, theatre productions, classic films, lectures and assemblies which have edified, entertained and enriched countless numbers of Brooklynites.
We are very proud of the fact that this 476 seat theatre, named after the legendary composer* has been the home of the Center's highly praised Yiddish Theatre Series for nearly two decades. It was the only place in the borough that was dedicated to preserving this unique, joyous art-form.
The theatre's stage has been the home for the Brooklyn College Theatre Department's Mainstage Productions throughout its half-century life. Alum greats such as the late "Skipper" Davidson, Bernie Barrow (who for seven years portrayed the title character in the award-winning daytime drama Ryan's Hope), director Wilson Lehr and actor Jimmy Smits (of LA LAW, NYPD BLUE and recently THE WEST WING fame) have each plied their craft before its footlights. The Home Box Office special "Table Settings" with Robert Kline, Stockard Channing and Eileen Heckart was filmed in the theatre.
Also hundreds of student and faculty music recitals and concerts were given each year in this theatre by the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music; the Student Academy Awards were presented year after year on its wall-to-wall movie screen.
It is difficult to point out without our pride showing, that Brooklyn Center was the site chosen by President Bill Clinton, here in the George Gershwin Theatre, to hold a "town meeting" to discuss his US AmeriCorps initiative with the Brooklyn public.
Many of the thousands of performances presented in the George Gershwin Theatre have been free to the public, just as the final performance -- the traditional Holiday Concert presented by the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music featuring the Conservatory Choir and Chorus -- was also free.
Demolition of the Gershwin wing which includes the Gershwin Theatre, the Sam Levenson Theatre and the Performing Arts Administrative Offices is underway, so please excuse our somewhat disheveled appearance during the construction period.
* Ed. Note: Brooklyn Center's George Gershwin Theatre was so named from its inception; from the time the first cornerstone was laid and long before the Uris Theatre in Manhattan was even a thought in some developer's mind, we were presenting music, dance, film and live theatre on the George Gershwin Theatre stage. And long after our inaugural concert by Leontyne Price, did the management at the Uris Theater decide to usurp the Gershwin name for its own, renaming itself the "The Gershwin Theater."
Over the years this had caused unnecessary confusion and quite frankly, it is a move that is considered untoward in the theatre business. Nevertheless, we wish them nothing but good will, confident that "Wicked" will play there night after night for another dozen or more years (our sympathies to the long-suffering staff).
We are happy in the knowledge that although they may call themselves by our name, we will always be the first George Gershwin Theatre in New York City, County of Kings, Borough of Brooklyn, right in the heart of Flatbush -- and we think we were always the more exciting and diverse venue, pre-dating the renaming of the Uris by decades.