The Fourth Arts Block is home to more than a dozen arts groups, 12 theaters, 8 dance & rehearsal studios, 3 film editing suites and 1 screening room.
Designated a “Cultural District” by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January 2006, the block enjoys a rich history of theatre and political activism. Once home to German singing societies, it was the site of the first Yiddish production in America.
Mother Jones led the “Children’s Crusade” down East 4th Street to Madison Square. Emma Goldman was arrested for “criminal anarchy” during opening remarks at the Manhattan Lyceum.
Among today’s theatres are the famed La Mama and the New York Theater Workshop, where Rent and Dirty Blond premiered prior to Broadway.
Located between 2nd Ave and the Bowery, the Arts Block serves as a bridge between two earlier entertainment districts. The Bowery, once alive with legitimate theatres, vaudeville, dime museums, concert saloons and early film venues, later the city’s infamous skid row and today a battleground for preservationists.
Second Avenue is the former Yiddish Rialto of Adler, Picon, and Thomashefsky. As these stages faded, the Loew’s Commodore was transformed into the Fillmore East and the Anderson became CBGB Second Avenue Theatre. Off-Off Broadway took up residence in storefronts and old union halls.
Along these streets, now lined with the trendy, were once cafes and clubs catering to immigrants, anarchists and the marginalized.
The past and present come together in this leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with a stop for a nosh at a “frozen-in-time LES relic.”
Who will enjoy this event? Those passionate about theatre (perhaps even Rent-heads), students of early cinema, lovers of pop music, from Irving Berlin to a Rolling Stone, and those wanting to know more about New York’s history, especially the Lower East Side.
Meet in front of Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery (between Houston and Bleecker)
Take the F to the Second Avenue station.
The walk ends back at the Bowery Poetry.
There are restrooms at Whole Foods on Houston Street and at that “frozen-in-time LES relic.”
Theater Historian and Artist
An artist with over 100 exhibitions at galleries, museums and art centers, Cezar Del Valle is also a theatre historian offering series of popular theatre talks and walking tours. He has been described as “legendary” by Lower East Side Preservation Initiative. For Dick Zigun, at Coney Island USA, Del Valle is “one hell of an entertaining speaker.” While Hillsman Wright, executive director of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, calls Cezar Del Valle “a distinguished scholar and great friend of historic theatres.” Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two volumes chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society of America. Final volume published in September 2014. He is currently working on a major update of the first two volumes of the Index for what will be the third and final editions. These will be available in early 2017.