American Airlines Theatre
William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Picnic returns to Broadway in a striking new production helmed by acclaimed director Sam Gold (Roundabout’s Look Back in Anger, Seminar). Academy Award® winner Ellen Burstyn stars alongside theatre veterans Reed Birney (The Dream of the Burning Boy) and Elizabeth Marvel (Other Desert Cities), rising stars Maggie Grace (“Lost”) and Sebastian Stan (“Gossip Girl”), Emmy® Award winner Mare Winningham (recently seen in Tribes), Madeleine Martin (August: Osage County) and Ben Rappaport (Hope Springs). It’s a balmy Labor Day in the American Heartland, and a group of women are preparing for a picnic… but they’ll have to lay a lot on the line before they can lay out the checkered cloths. When a handsome young drifter named Hal (Stan) arrives, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge (Grace). When Hal is forced out of town, Madge must decide whether their fleeting encounter is worth changing the course of her life. Sensual, passionate and delightfully funny, Picnic is a timeless American classic about the line between restraint and desire. Picnic will run from December 14, 2012 to February 24, 2013 at the American Airlines Theatre (227 West 42nd Street). This will be a limited engagement through February 24, 2013.
The American Airlines Theatre, originally the Selwyn Theatre, is a historic Italian Renaissance style Broadway theatre built in 1918. It was designed by George Keister and built by the Selwyn brothers. Used for musicals and other dramatic performances it was eventually converted for film. It was used briefly as a visitor’s center but stood vacant for years until a 1997 renovation and restoration. It is located at 227 West 42nd Street, New York City.
History – Design
Originally named the Selwyn Theatre, it was designed by the architect George Keister and constructed by the Selwyn brothers, Edgar and Archie, in 1918. It was one of three theatres they built and controlled on 42nd Street, along with the Apollo and the Times Square Theatre. It was decorated in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and originally had 1,180 seats. At the time of its opening, the design had several innovations. Its most novel feature was separate smoking rooms for men and women. Additionally, each dressing room was equipped with a shower and telephone.
The venue initially hosted major musical and dramatic productions, including Cole Porter‘s Wake Up and Dream, and in October 1930 Clifton Webb appeared there in Three’s a Crowd, but eventually became a cinema. It would return to legitimate theatre several times over the next six decades, but eventually fell into disrepair. It was used briefly in the early 1990s as a home for the Times Square Visitors Center and for a limited production of Eugene O’Neill‘s The Hairy Ape, but for the most part, stood vacant.
The City and State of New York took possession of the Selwyn in 1990. In 1992, it was one of six 42nd Street theatres to fall under the protection of the New 42nd Street organization. The Roundabout Theatre Company committed to renovating the Selwyn in 1997. It was restored to its former grandeur (albeit now with just 740 seats), renamed the American Airlines in honor of its principal sponsor, and reopened on June 30, 2000. The American Airlines Theatre, which is still informally known by its former name among many theatre fans, currently serves as the home of the Roundabout and houses its major dramatic productions.