"The John Street Theatre, on the northerly side of John Street, was opened by Mr. [David] Douglas on December 7, 1767, with 'The Stratagem' and 'Lethe.' For many years this was the principal place of amusement in the city."
One of the oldest objects in the Museum of the City of New York's theatre collection is a theatrical broadside for a performance of The Merchant of Venice at the John Street Theatre on Wednesday, November 30, 1785.
The theatre produced what is considered to be America's earliest musical - The Archers (subtitled 'The Mountaineers of Switzerland'), written by William Dunlap and Benjamin Carr. Based on the legend of William Tell, it ran for three performances--April 18-22, 1796.
With the city's growing prestige, the wealthy wanted to expand stage performance beyond the John Street Theatre which now appeared shabby and run down. .
"Then, as the new century dawned, came new theatres, new players and new methods. The Park Theatre, which stood in Park Row, about two hundred feet east of Ann Street, was opened on January 29, 1798 and was long the fashionable place of amusement." [Theatre Magazine, September 1902]
The last production, at the John Street, took place on January 13, 1798, with its resident company moving to the new Park.
Briefly used by a neighboring grain and hay store, the John Street Theatre was demolished in late 1798.
The site,15-21 John Street, currently occupied by Brasserie Les Halles and a Duane Reade pharmacy.
Since 1997 theatre historian, Cezar Del Valle, has conducted a popular series of theatre talks and walks, available for historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.
Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres.
The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.
Editing and updating the third edition of the Brooklyn Theatre Index.