I love theaters almost as much as I love theater, especially old theaters, especially endangered old theaters. I was arrested standing next to Susan Sarandon just before the Morosco and the Helen Hayes were demolished to make way for a Marriott. (A theater meant to compensate was built right into the hotel – a cavernous place not even a stage mother could love.)
The plays that inspired me to write were musical plays—Carousel (which I fell for at 6, at camp), West Side Story, Sunday in the Park with George, The Light in the Piazza. You get the picture—the hopelessly and hopefully romantic. So the rooms that echo with the music of the American Popular Songbook, once identical to the music of the American Musical Theater, are as precious to me as theaters, and as theatrical. None more so than the Oak Room, the quintessence of cabaret, and the site of more enchanted evenings than I can count, but will not forget. When the news came from, you guessed it, Marriott, that the Oak Room would not reopen after renovation with the rest of the Algonquin Hotel, but instead become a “breakfast nook” for Elite Marriott Rewards members, it felt like a fatal wound to New York’s idiosyncratic heart.
Once again, I’m fighting a quixotic battle against the same Goliath, but with a better weapon–the Internet. I wrote a petition with Vicki Stivala (who is writing a whole book about the Oak Room), and like the social media butterflies we’ve become, promote it relentlessly on Facebook and Twitter.
More than 3000 people have signed, commented (eloquently and urgently), shared, tweeted, and forwarded, including dozens of fellow theater women. There is much favorable press (Back Stage, NPR, QXR, HuffPo, blogs, podcasts), the Oak Room was named a Place That Matters by the Municipal Art Society, Community Board 5 is poised to recommend to management that the room be used for cabaret again, and the latest word from management: “it’s not off the table.”
Enid Futterman wrote Book and Lyrics for Yours, Anne, Portrait of Jennie, and An Open Window, and text for song cycles I am Anne Frank and I Remember. She writes theater criticism for Our Town, which she co-publishes and edits, and holds an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from NYU.