Broadway theater renamed in honor of James Earl Jones

NEW YORK — The recently restored Cort Theater on Broadway has been renamed in honor of James Earl Jones, becoming the second theater on the Great White Way named after a black performer.

During Monday’s ceremony, Norm Lewis sang “Go the Distance,” Brian Stokes Mitchell sang “Make Them Hear You,” and lyrics from Mayor Eric Adams, Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson. Jones, 91, was not present.

This honor is in addition to the many the iconic actor Jones has amassed, including two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, two Tony Awards, a Grammy, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors. He also received an honorary Oscar and a special Tony for lifetime achievement.

” That says everything. You can’t think of an artist who has served America more,” director Kenny Leon told The Associated Press ahead of the ceremony. “It feels like a small act, but it’s a huge action. It is something that we can research and see that is tangible.

The name change comes after a broad Broadway coalition of theater owners, producers, union leaders, creators and casting directors crafted a series of 2021 reforms and commitments for the theater industry. to ensure equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

One of the requirements of the so-called New Deal for Broadway was that the Shubert, Nederlander and Jujamcyn theater chains have at least one of their theaters named after a black performer. Artists like LaChanze, Audra McDonald, Wendell Pierce, Billy Porter and Leon have backed the proposals.

“I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy of this honor,” Leon said. “When I think of it, I think of young kids. I think of black kids, white kids, and Asian kids, all kinds of kids, standing in front of that theater and looking up and saying, ‘This is it: the James Earl Jones Theatre”. It represents the good in all of us.

Leon was joined at the ceremony by Suzan-Lori Parks, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Danielle Brooks, Corey Hawkins, Phylicia Rashad and Woody King, Jr.

Jujamcyn already has the August Wilson Theater and the Nederlander Organization will soon rename the Brooks Atkinson Theater after Lena Horne, marking the first time a black woman will have a Broadway theater named in her honor.

The three-level Cort Theater – at 138 W. 48th St. – opened in 1912 and was built by and named for John Cort, executive director of the Northwestern Theatrical Association. Thomas Lamb was the architect.

It underwent a $47 million restoration and expansion that includes the construction of a 35-foot-wide, 100-foot-deep adjacent space to the theater that allows bars and lounges for all levels, new men’s and women’s bathrooms, and elevators, all in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A new mural that uses digital tiles connects the floors.

The James Earl Jones Theater has a wider stage and trapdoor room below – making musicals now an option – and a new upstairs rehearsal space that matches the footprint of the stage. There is also an improved wardrobe room and offices for theater staff and spacious dressing rooms.

Inside the theatre, firm Francesca Russo Architect brought back Marie Antoinette’s color palette in the seating, ornamental plasterwork, drapery, lighting and carpeting. The original cove lighting has been replaced with long life lamps and the original Tiffany glass lit proscenium has been restored.

New, wider seats actually mean the interior has lost four seats out of just over 1,000 seats, but it promises to deliver a more comfortable experience. A new rigging system was added, along with a redesigned orchestra pit and ventilation systems.

Marc Kennedy is at

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