A Door To The Past


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One of my favorite stories we tell on our ACT I Tour takes place at the Lyceum Theater. The theater holds the distinction of being the longest running continually operating Broadway theater that has only presented Broadway shows since it's first opening night in 1903. The facade of the theater is a beautiful design by the architecture firm of Herts and Tallant who designed the New Amsterdam and the Shubert Theater among others. It's hard to believe but in 1903 the theater, which is situated on 45th street just off of Times Square, was hard to find because it was considered "off the beaten path". It's hard to imagine Times Square without all the billboards and bright lights but electricity had only reached the area eight years prior. To illuminate the upper reaches of the imposing facade four pots of fire were lit in the evenings in hopes that they were attract theatre-goers to the beautiful building each night.

But it's the area right behind these flaming fire pots that has fascinated me for years. Built on top of the front portion of the theater is the ol' Frohman Apartment that used to be inhabited by Daniel Frohman and his wife Margaret Illington. Almost on cue at least one tour-goer on every tour asks "Who lives there now?" The question: no one. It is currently home to the Shubert Archives. If you don't know who the Shuberts are then you obviously haven't taken a BUC Tour yet! In this beautiful old apartment the Archives contain memorabilia, pictures, correspondence and other artifacts of the Shubert Brothers' dealings from over 100 years.

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And yet, still, it wasn't the Archives that I was most fascinated by. It was one small door that I had heard tell of hidden in a wall of the Frohman Apartment. According to legend, Daniel didn't think his wife Margaret was the most wonderful actress of her day. What a loving husband he was! (Can you sense my sarcasm?) In 1907 Margaret was appearing in a production of an old play entitled The Thief. In Act II Margaret had a big scene fraught with emotion that Daniel didn't think was up to snuff. So, to remedy the situation and to "help her with her acting" Daniel carved a small door in the wall of his apartment that when opened gave a bird's eye view of the stage from just above the balcony. He would get down on his hands and knees and watch each night while Margaret played out her scene in front of a watchful audience. On certain nights that Daniel thought Margaret could "do better" he would stick his arm through the trapdoor and wave a white flag. Margaret, upon seeing this white flag, would begin speaking louder or "acting better" as Daniel wished.

107 years later, thanks to the efforts of my loving girlfriend Emmy who was appearing at the Lyceum in A Night With Janis Joplin, I was granted entrance to the famed Lyceum Apartment. As we rumbled up to the apartment from the small hidden elevator in the lobby I couldn't help but feel I was standing in the exact same footsteps as Mr. Daniel Frohman himself making the same journey that he made daily. As the doors to the ol' Apartment opened I felt like a kid on Christmas morning mentally taking in every detail of the room and it's fixtures. We were led to a table full of some selected photos, sketches and memorabili