Ghosts perform at Cherry Lane Theater
This intimate theater, located at 38 Commerce Street, was the brainchild of Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1924. She formed an experimental theater group of local artists in the former brewery and box factory building, which dates back to 1836. Although there have never been any cherry trees along Commerce Street, the theater’s name fosters that notion. The reality is that Millay had named her group “The Cheery Lane Theater” to play on “Dreary Lane,” the nickname of the Drury Lane Theater in London. But a reporter misstated the name as “Cherry Lane,” and that’s what stuck.
Over the years there have been reports of ghosts “performing” at the theater. Sightings include a white mist that forms on the top step of the lobby staircase and a shadowy manifestation that hovers around the hallway outside the dressing rooms. Three former residents of the neighborhood—Aaron Burr, Washington Irving, and Thomas Paine have been suspected as the identity of these phantoms.
Possible ghostly addition to Cherry Lane Theater
Of course, a possible recent addition to the ghostly cast may be the spirit of Kim Hunter, the Oscar-winning actress best known for playing Stella in the stage and screen versions of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954, Hunter moved into an apartment above the Cherry Lane Theater with her husband, Robert Emmett. Kim’s career was derailed for a short time in the 1950s when she was blacklisted by McCarthy as a communist sympathizer. Hunter was no such thing. She was, however, according to her obituary in the New York Times, “feisty” and “occasionally profane,” with “no use for the trappings of Hollywood stardom that had always eluded her.” Hunter was quoted as saying: “The work itself has been my life. I was never in this for jazzy stardom, and as far as that’s concerned, I’ve never had it. Doesn’t matter to me.” Hunter’s husband died in 2000, and Kim Hunter died September 12, 2002. Maybe she was just too feisty for a final bow and stays active near the other love of her life, the stage at the Cherry Lane.
I spoke with Alex, the theater manager at the Cherry Lane, who has worked there for three and a half years. He said he has not experienced anything paranormal there even though he has been in the theater very late at night. He did say, though: “We like to think that the spirit of Edna (Millay) keeps an eye on the place. I always say, ‘God morning, Edna,’ or ‘Good night, Edna.’ when coming or going.
Why not visit the Cherry Lane Theater? You can make a ghostly night out of it and have dinner and a show; the One If By Land, Two If By Sea restaurant (subject of another ghostly tale by L’Aura Hladik) is within walking distance.