May 23, 2006

The Martin Beck Theater

...was erected by Martin Beck in the 1920's. 75 years later or so his theater would be renamed The Al Hirschfeld Theater. It's my favorite theater. It's different from all the others on Broadway with domed ceilings - it gives you the feeling of standing in an old church. It also has a big beautiful mezzanine lounge with a lot of wall space where the theater boasts several framed Hirschfelds.

The earliest they have is for the play that opened the theater in 1926 - The Shanghai Gesture. It's a charicature of Florence Reed who starred in the show. It's drawn sparsely in the Art Deco style and looks strongly influenced by the famous Erte, reproduced from the NY Times cartoon. It's kind of interesting to look some of the portraits done before Nina was born because he hadn't yet starting hiding her names in crazy hairstyles and the folds of skirts. You know about the Ninas, right? In many of Hirschfelds works after his signature he would write a number. This number indicated how many times he had hidden his daughter Ninas name in each drawing.

hirschfeldNaturally, the theater dipslays mostly illustrations for the plays that appeared at the Martin Beck but they have a few others that don't. For instance, did you know that Al Hirschfeld once drew an ad for Absolut Vodka? Instead of Ninas, he hid Absoluts.

Did he sell out? Probably. But isn't that the dream of every artist? To make money doing what they love?

Did you know about the Ninas? I've known about that since I was 10 years old. I thought everybody in the world knew about the Ninas or at least everybody in New York which is why I was surprised, when working at the Martin Beck, that at least two people who worked there didn't know about it. I had to explain it to them. It was fun taking them around (on two different occasions) and watching them count the number of times they could find his daughter's name.

My favorite picture is the one Hirschfeld drew for Bye, Bye Birdie which starred Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde and Chita Rivera when the play first opened in 1960. I can't find it anywhere online. It's just pretty cool.

Anyway, I still don't recommend that you see The Wedding Singer.

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