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The La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, A Place That Matters

The La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, located in the East Village of Manhattan, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter for introducing new culture to an old setting.

In 1873, the Aschenbroedel Verein building was constructed to house the “Cinderella Society,” a German-American cultural association. When the group moved to Yorkville in 1892, another German organization, the Gesang Verein Schiller Bund, took over the space. As the large German population of Kleindeutschland began to migrate uptown, most of the East Village’s German institutions moved with them.

Though founded in 1961, it wasn’t until 1969 that the La Mama Experimental Theater Club converted the former Aschenbroedel Verein building into its off-off Broadway theatre. Led by Ellen Stewart, the world-renowned La MaMa has “passionately pursued its original mission to develop, nurture, support, produce and present new and original performance work by artists of all nations and cultures,” according to their website.

Since its inception, La Mama has been dedicated to providing a stage for a wide variety of new voices. Alumni of the theater include Robert De Niro, Harvey Fierstein, Sam Shephard, Elizabeth Swados and Philip Glass. The next generation of talent is recruited through high school and college level internships, while theater-goers are encouraged via ticket subsidy programs.

Over the years, La MaMa has expanded beyond the confines of 74 East 4th Street; they also have an exhibition space at their Annex, a rehearsal loft on Great Jones and a retreat in the hills of Umbria in Italy. Regardless of the location, La MaMa has provided 48 years of radical artistic exploration, embracing cultures near and far.

The Landmark Preservation Commission recognized La MaMa’s physical connection to New York City history on Tuesday, March 24th with a public hearing on the proposed designation of its main building.