Even after death, Lena Horne is still making history as the first Black woman with a Broadway theater named after her.
The Nederlander Organization will rename its Broadway theater, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre after the late, great performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne. The new name will be Lena Horne Theatre and it will be the first Broadway venue named for a Black woman.
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“We are proud to take this moment to rename one of our theaters in honor of the great civil rights activist, actress, and entertainer Lena Horne,” said James L. Nederlander of The Nederlander Organization in a statement. “I am so honored to have known Lena. She became a part of our family over the years. It means so much to me that my father was the producer of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and it is my privilege, honor, and duty to memorialize Lena for generations to come.”
The Nederlander Organization owns the Brooks Atkinson, one of its nine Broadway theatres. Built in 1926, the venue was renamed for the late, longtime New York Times theatre critic Atkinson in 1960.
The move to rename the Atkinson theater comes following an agreement announced last year by three of Broadway’s major landlords and Black Theater United to recognize a Black artist at least one of their performance spaces.
Two theaters had already announced that playwright August Wilson and actor James Earl Jones would be among those honored with theaters named after them.
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Ms. Horne, the singer and actor who broke down color barriers by becoming one of Hollywood’s first African-American female stars, passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.
Ms. Horne had been nominated for a Tony Award for the hit 1957 Harold Arlen musical Jamaica, but when she burst back onto the scene as the star of her own one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, in 1981, it was as if the public was discovering her anew. Initially, the Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier, and Fred Walker had booked her for four weeks into the Nederlander Theatre, but critics hailed her talents and the show ultimately ran for 14 months and won a Tony Award. The production was filmed for television broadcast and home video release. A tour began at Tanglewood during the July 4 weekend in 1982, and played 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It also played in London for a month in August, and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden, September 14, 1984. Additionally, the cast album won a Grammy Award.
Ms. Horne’s other Broadway credits included Dance With Your Gods, Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1939, and Tony & Lena Sing.
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The venue, which currently houses the hit Broadway musical Six, will officially be renamed the Lena Horne Theatre this fall at a renaming ceremony.
An official date will be announced in the coming weeks.