Mann, Theodore

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Circle in the Square Theater was founded in 1950 by Theodore Mann and José Quintero in an abandoned nightclub in New York City's Greenwich Village.

Circle in the Square founder and Artistic Director Theodore Mann, was born Theodore Goldman in 1924, in Brooklyn, New York. 1924. He attended Erasmus High School, received an A.B.A from Salinas College and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Mann co-founded Circle in the Square with José Quintero in 1950 and remained its Artistic Director until his resignation in 1996. He continues to own and operate the Circle in the Square Theater Uptown. Additionally, he has produced and directed a number of shows under his own auspices, including The Cherry Orchard, General Seeger, A Great Day in the Morning, Long Day's Journey into Night at the Cameri Theater (Tel Aviv), Pygmalion, and Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. In addition to the theater, Mann worked in opera, directing La Boehme at Juilliard in 1974, Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw for New York City Opera in 1988, and Gianni Schicci. His wife, Patricia Brooks, was a soprano with the New York Opera Company and appeared in several Circle productions. Circle in the Square's long-time Managing Director, Paul Libin, was born in Chicago in 1930, and attended the University of Illinois and Columbia University, where he earned a B.F.A in drama. Although he had originally intended to become an actor, his first job in theater was as designer Jo Mielziner's production assistant. He soon found success as a stage manager and, later, as a producer. In 1958, he produced his first show, an Off-Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, at the Martinique Theater on 32nd Street, which he leased and operated. In addition to producing Off-Broadway, Libin and partner Carol Schwartz created the Peppermint Players, a company which produced children's theater in New York City and at various venues in the tri-state area. Libin became acquainted with Theodore Mann in 1958 when the two founded the League of Off-Broadway Theaters together, an organization created to foster theatrical productions produced in Off-Broadway theaters; their professional partnership within Circle in the Square began in 1963. After twenty-seven years, Libin left Circle in the Square to become the Producing Director for Jujamcyn Theaters, of which he is currently Vice-President.

From the description of Circle in the Square papers, 1906-2004 (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 262691103

Circle in the Square Theater was founded in 1950 by Theodore Mann and José Quintero in an abandoned nightclub in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The name refers to the fact that it was a theater in the round located at 5 Sheridan Square. Mann and Quintero had become acquainted while doing summer stock with the Loft Players at the Maverick Theater in Woodstock, New York, and hoped to create a year-round repertory company in the City, and ultimately, their project became the epicenter of a national movement for Off-Broadway theater. Circle in the Square was conceived as a not-for-profit theater, and at the time that it ceased operations as a producing entity in 1996, it remained one of the only not-for-profit theaters operating on Broadway, as well as one of the oldest producing theaters in New York City.

Circle’s first production was Howard Richardson and Richard Berney’s Dark of the Moon . Tickets were sold for $1.50 apiece. City officials determined that the Sheridan Square space had been zoned as a cabaret, so tables were built around the stage, and the audience was served cookies and punch in order to meet the requirements of the cabaret laws. Other shows staged during Circle’s inaugural season included Jean Anouihl’s Antigone and Federico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma .

In 1952, Circle produced a revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke starring Geraldine Page, which had failed on Broadway a few years earlier. New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson attended the opening night performance, and stated in his review that “nothing has happened for quite a long time as admirable as the new production at Circle in the Square.” Summer and Smoke became Circle’s first hit, and the Off-Broadway theater movement took root.

Mann and Quintero had lobbied tirelessly since Circle’s inception for permission from Carlotta Monterey O’Neill to produce one of her late husband’s plays, and in 1956 permission was granted for a production of The Iceman Cometh starring Jason Robards, Jr. Circle’s burgeoning reputation was solidified by the production which, like Summer and Smoke, had originally been a Broadway failure. This success has been credited for re-establishing Eugene O’Neill as one of America’s greatest dramatists, and brought Circle numerous awards. It was followed up later that year with the American premier of Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Frederic March, Florence Eldridge, and Jason Robards, Jr. The production garnered Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actor for Frederic March. Over the course of its lifespan, Circle in the Square produced nearly all of Eugene O’Neill’s major works.

The company moved to a new performance space at 159 Bleecker Street in 1960, the original home of the Amato Opera Company. The Bleecker Street Theater’s three-sided stage allowed for democratic seating, use of a minimal amount of scenery, and for the audience to be close to the action. This style, pioneered by Circle in the Square, later became a mainstay of regional theater. Also at this time, Quintero left the company to pursue other opportunities. Mann remained at the helm as Artistic Director, a position he would occupy until 1993. His partnership with Paul Libin, Circle’s long-time Managing Director and Producing Director, began in 1963 with their production of The Trojan Women .

Throughout the 1960s, Circle continued to develop as a home for both revivals of classic works, such as Othello and Iphigenia in Aulis, and for new and experimental works such as the American premiers of Jean Genet’s The Balcony and Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow . Additionally, Circle presented three critically-acclaimed seasons at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

In the fall of 1972, Circle moved its base of operations once again, this time at the invitation of Mayor John Lindsay to the Joseph E. Levine Theatre, a 650-seat house at 50th Street and Broadway, though the Bleecker Street theater continued to house workshops of experimental plays and productions of new works until the late 1970s. The first production in their new home was O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra starring Colleen Dewhurst. Circle in the Square Uptown, as it came to be known, was also the home of the Circle in the Square Theater School, which opened in 1971 and remains a highly regarded acting conservatory. Although Circle in the Square is most often associated with Off-Broadway theater, they had been producing shows in Broadway houses as far back as Alfred Hayes’ The Girl on the Via Flaminia in 1954. With the opening of the Uptown theater, Circle had a permanent home on Broadway.

The increased expenses related to producing for Broadway took a toll, and by the end of their second Broadway season, Circle was struggling financially. By the mid-1980s, the company’s deficit had become a serious concern, in spite of such critical and box office successes as Tina Howe’s Coastal Disturbances and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd . The situation became increasingly perilous by the early 1990s, and in 1993, Circle very nearly closed up shop. That same year, Josephine Abady was brought on board to serve as co-Artistic Director with Mann, but the mounting debt continued to cripple their efforts, and in 1996, after continued conflict with Abady, Mann resigned the position he had held for forty-five years; many of his fellow Board members followed suit. Later that year, Abady was fired by the Board of Directors. An award-winning production of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie starring Al Pacino covered their immediate debts, but it was clear that Circle in the Square could not continue as a producing entity and the organization filed for bankruptcy. The theater at Broadway and 50th Street is currently still operating as a Broadway house, and retains the name Circle in the Square.

In its 45-year history, Circle in the Square launched or reinvigorated the careers of many playwrights, actors, and directors. Among the notable figures who worked on Circle productions are Alan Arkin, Philip Bosco, Zak Brown, Michael Cocoyannis, David Carradine, Richard Chamberlain, Liviu Ciulei, Mildred Dunnock, Marsha Eck, Jules Feiffer, Jules Fisher, Hallie and Horton Foote, Lillian Gish, George Grizzard, Rex Harrison, Rosemary Harris, Dana Ivey, Anne Jackson, Salome Jens, James Earl Jones, Frances McDormand, Leonard Melfi, Eve Merriam, Joe Namath, Geraldine Page, Mary Louise Parker, Stephen Porter, Ellis Raab, Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave, George C. Scott, Vitali Solomon, Eli Wallach, Tennessee Williams, and Thornton Wilder.

Circle in the Square founder and Artistic Director Theodore Mann was born Theodore Goldman in 1924, in Brooklyn, New York. 1924. He attended Erasmus High School, received an A.B.A from Salinas College and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Mann co-founded Circle in the Square with José Quintero in 1950 and remained its Artistic Director until his resignation in 1996. He continues to own and operate the Circle in the Square Theater Uptown. Additionally, he has produced and directed a number of shows under his own auspices, including The Cherry Orchard, General Seeger, A Great Day in the Morning, Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Cameri Theater (Tel Aviv), Pygmalion, and Serjeant Musgrave's Dance . In addition to the theater, Mann worked in opera, directing La Bohème at Juilliard in 1974, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw for New York City Opera in 1988, and Gianni Schicci . His wife, Patricia Brooks, was a soprano with the New York Opera Company and appeared in several Circle productions.

Circle in the Square’s long-time Managing Director and Producing Director, Paul Libin, was born in Chicago in 1930, and attended the University of Illinois and Columbia University, where he earned a B.F.A in drama. Although he had originally intended to become an actor, his first job in theater was as designer Jo Mielziner’s production assistant. He soon found success as a stage manager and, later, as a producer. In 1958, he produced his first show, an Off-Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, at the Martinique Theater on 32nd Street, which he leased and operated. In addition to producing Off-Broadway, Libin and partner Carol Schwartz created the Peppermint Players, a company which produced children’s theater in New York City and at various venues in the tri-state area. Libin became acquainted with Theodore Mann in 1958 when the two founded the League of Off-Broadway Theaters together, an organization created to foster theatrical productions produced in Off-Broadway theaters; their professional partnership within Circle in the Square began in 1963. After twenty-seven years, Libin left Circle in the Square to become the Producing Director for Jujamcyn Theaters, of which he is currently Vice-President.

From the guide to the Circle in the Square papers, 1906-2004, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn The Moldenhauer Archives at Harvard University: Correspondence, literary manuscripts, sound recordings, and other material, 1873-2001. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Berkowitz, Gerald M. Transcripts of the New Broadways interviews, 1995-1996. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Kennedy, Adrienne. Papers, ca. 1954-1992. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Patricia Brooks papers, 1867-2001 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
referencedIn E. E. Cummings additional papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Audet, Virginia E. Newton Free Library Grand Opening Celebration Photos, Fall 1991, 15 September, 1991 - ca. November, 1991. Minuteman Library Network
referencedIn Interviews for the book New Broadways [sound recording] / Gerald Berkowitz The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf Newton Free Library. Retirement Events and Parties: Newton Free Library, 1993-1997. Minuteman Library Network
creatorOf Brooks, Patricia, 1933-1993. Patricia Brooks papers, 1867-2001. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Transcripts of the New Broadways interviews, 1995-1996 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Circle in the Square papers, 1906-2004 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Witty, Ken. Thornton Wilder Documentary Project interviews, 2003 [videorecording]. Yale University Library
creatorOf Toronto Workshop Productions Archives. Chicago' 70 / by Theodore Mann ; improvised and developed by the Toronto Workshop Company ; directed by George Luscombe, 1969 - sound tape. University of Guelph
creatorOf Mann, Theodore. Circle in the Square papers, 1906-2004 New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Audet, Virginia E. person
associatedWith Berkowitz, Gerald M. person
associatedWith Brooks, Patricia, 1933-1993. person
associatedWith Circle in the Square (Theater). corporateBody
correspondedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962 person
associatedWith Elmer, George. person
associatedWith Goldman, Seth person
associatedWith Goldman, Seth. person
associatedWith Kazan, Elia. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Adrienne. person
associatedWith Lardner, Ring, 1915-2000. person
associatedWith Leroy, Warner person
associatedWith Leroy, Warner. person
associatedWith Libin, Paul. person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
associatedWith Maly Drama Theatre. corporateBody
associatedWith Malyĭ teatr (Russia) corporateBody
correspondedWith Moldenhauer, Hans, collector. person
associatedWith Newman, Paul, 1925-2008 person
associatedWith Newton Free Library. corporateBody
associatedWith O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953. person
associatedWith Papas, Irene person
associatedWith Papas, Irene. person
associatedWith Quintero, José. person
associatedWith Quintero, José person
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Toronto Workshop Productions Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Waissman, Kenneth. person
associatedWith Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. person
associatedWith Witty, Ken. person
associatedWith Woodward, Joanne, 1930- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
United States
Subject
Repertory theater--New York (State)--New York
Repertory theater
Theater--History
Theatrical producers and directors--United States
Theater--New York (State)--New York--History
Theatrical producers and directors
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1924-05-13

Death 2012-02-24

Americans

English

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