Posts Tagged ‘Lower Second Avenue NYC’

A remnant of Second Avenue’s theater district

December 12, 2011

Not much remains of lower Second Avenue’s glorious past as the “Jewish Rialto,” a theater district running from Houston to 14th Streets, with 11 theaters as well as cafes and dairies catering to actors and performers.

But laying low on East Seventh Street off what was once “Yiddish Broadway” is the four-story Hebrew Actors Union, founded in 1888.

It’s got some cracked windows now, and the union itself hasn’t been active in two decades.

Yet it meant something to the Yiddish theater world during its peak (and decline) from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The HAU was the first actor’s union in the U.S., initiating a set pay scale and keeping non-union actors out of union productions.

“it represented New York’s Yiddish theater in all its vigor and energy,” writes David Freeland in his wonderful 2009 book Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville.

The theaters are mostly gone, of course, save for this one on 12th Street.

And the leading men and women who once thrilled audiences are memorialized in cement across the street.