New Lafayette Theatre
Inset: Logo of New Lafayette Theater
THE NEW LAFAYETTE THEATRE
1967-1973 | 132nd St. & Seventh Ave, moved to 138th Street & Seventh Ave
The New Lafayette Theatre was a proponent of Ritual Theater, created to “bind together and strengthen black people so that they can survive the long struggle that is to come.”
The New Lafayette Theatre (NLT) of Harlem was founded in 1967 by actor, director and playwright Robert Macbeth at the old Lafayette Theater on 132nd Street and 7th Avenue. The Lafayette’s first season included Ron Milner’s Who’s Got His Own? and Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot. A year later, the Lafayette Theater burned down and the company moved to 138th Street and 7th Avenue. The mission of NLT was to show “black people who they are, where they are and what condition they are in.”
In the April 1968 Black Theatre issue of Negro Digest, its editor, Hoyt Fuller, who was the connecting link among black theaters throughout the country, wrote “In a way the most important theater enterprise in New York is the New Lafayette Theatre, which under the direction of Robert Macbeth got off to a bright start last October.”
Throughout its existence, the New Lafayette Theatre was a leading proponent of “telling it like it is” theater or what its award-winning playwright-in-residence, Ed Bullins, called “the theater of reality.”
Some of the New Lafayette’s most talked about plays reflected this concept. Most notable among those were The Duplex: A Black Love Fable in Four Movements, In the Wine Time, The Fabulous Miss Marie and We Righteous Bombers, all written by Bullins.
Other playwrights whose works were presented by the New Lafayette include Martie Charles, Ben Caldwell, Oyamo, Marvin X, Sonia Sanchez and Richard Wesley, one of black theater’s most talented, perceptive, visionary and thought-provoking artists.
NLT was a leading force in the Black Arts Movement in Harlem. NLT was also a proponent of Ritual Theater, created to “bind together and strengthen black people so that they can survive the long struggle that is to come.”
The New Lafayette left an indelible mark on Harlem theater.