The Nederlander Organization officially rechristens the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway, currently home to SIX, as the Lena Horne Theatre in an unveiling ceremony November 1. The move, which marks the first time a Broadway theatre has been named for a Black woman, was initially announced in June.
The ceremony is scheduled to include a block party with a DJ, special performances, remarks, and the reveal of a new marquee, with Broadway stars in attendance.
The name change follows an earlier agreement between Black Theater United and Broadway's three major landlords, who each agreed to rename at least one of its Broadway houses for a Black artist. The Shubert Organization unveiled the James Earl Jones Theatre (previously the Cort) earlier this year, while Jujamcyn has a venue named for the late, Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson.
Gail Lumet Buckley, Lena Horne’s daughter, and the Horne Family
shared in an earlier statement, “On February 13, 1939, Brooks Atkinson
wrote a review of the musical Blackbirds of 1939 for the New
York Times. His review was generally unfavorable except for the mention
of ‘a radiantly beautiful girl, Lena Horne, who will be a winner once
she has proper direction.’ The proper direction came from within Lena
herself. She sought an artistic education, and a political education.
She sought her own voice, found it, and then fought for the right that
was always denied her - the right to tell her own story. In 1981, James
M. Nederlander offered her their stage and Lena's one woman show, The Lady and her Music ran
for more than a year. 366 performances, in three countries. It was her
fullest expression as an artist and storyteller. We're grateful to the
Nederlander Organization for rechristening this space to the Lena Horne
Theater. We hope artists and audiences alike will tell their own stories
Ms. Horne, the singer and actor who broke down color barriers by becoming one of Hollywood's first African-American female stars, passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.
Ms. Horne had been nominated for a Tony Award for the hit 1957 Harold Arlen musical Jamaica, but when she burst back onto the scene as the star of her own one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,
in 1981, it was as if the public was discovering her anew. Initially,
the Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier, and Fred Walker had
booked her for four weeks into the Nederlander Theatre, but critics
hailed her talents and the show ultimately ran for 14 months and won a
Tony Award. The production was filmed for television broadcast and home
video release. A tour began at Tanglewood during the July 4 weekend in
1982, and played 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It also played in
London for a month in August, and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden,
September 14, 1984. Additionally, the cast album won a Grammy Award.
Ms. Horne's other Broadway credits included Dance With Your Gods, Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939, and Tony & Lena Sing.