Stage, film and musical icon Lena Horne will officially become the first Black woman to have a Broadway theater named for her when The Nederlander Organization rechristens the Brooks Atkinson Theatre next month and unveils a new marquee.
The company, under the leadership of James L. Nederlander, announced the renaming date today. A formal celebration will take place in front of the venue on 47th Street, currently housing the musical Six, on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
In its announcement today, the organization, which owns nine Broadway theaters, said that in renaming the venue “new generations of theatergoers will be introduced to the legendary Lena Horne, an entertainer who broke barriers for other Black women to follow in her footsteps, and through this recognition will continue to inspire future generations of theatergoers.”
The renaming ceremony, co-produced by Christina Selby and Jacquelyn Bell, will include special performances, remarks, the marquee unveiling and a DJ’d block party. The announcement indicates that “legendary stars and luminaries from the Broadway and entertainment communities” will participate, with specifics to be announced.
The ceremony will follow through on a pledge by various Broadway theater owners in 2020, in solidarity with Black Theatre United, to honor Black theater artists by renaming at least one of their venues. Last month, the Shubert Organization officially renamed the Cort Theater the James Earl Jones Theatre; Jujamcyn Theaters had renamed its Virginia Theatre the August Wilson Theatre in 2005.
Horne, who died in 2010, was the first Black woman ever to be nominated for a Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in 1957’s Jamaica. In 1981, she starred on Broadway in Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music which played at the Nederlander Theatre and included among its lead producers James M. Nederlander. Horne received a special Tony Award for the show, as well as two Grammy Awards for the cast recording.
Built in 1925 and originally named the Mansfield Theatre, the venue was used as a TV studio by CBS for a period during the 1950s, reopening to “legitimate” theater in 1960 when it was renamed for then-recently retired New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson (he died in 1984). The upcoming renaming will leave just the Walter Kerr Theatre, owned by Jujamcyn, as the sole remaining Broadway venue named for a theater critic (the Mark Hellinger Theatre was converted into a church in 1989).