The theatre at 1 Sheridan Square has a long history as a vibrant, varied West Village performance space. Built in 1834 by Samuel Whitmore, it wasn't until the 1930's that the theatre in the basement became a destination of choice in Greenwich Village.

  • The murals from Café Society
  • Billie Holiday at Café Society ca. 1939
Called "Goofy Clubs" it was first a theme restaurant where diners ate in a dungeon. Then in 1938 Barney Josephson borrowed $6000 to open a supper club called Cafe Society. He invited neighbourhood artists to paint murals on the walls in exchange for a $250 bar tab and he employed John Hammond, a jazz producer, to advise him in booking talent. Hammond worked closely with Josephson on his plans for the club and booked his opening night act, a relatively unknown singer called Billie Holiday. Recalling this night later in life, Holiday said, " I opened Cafe Society as an unknown, I left two years later a star".

  • Albert Ammons and Mary Lou Williams at Café Society
Over the years Josephson's vision and concept for his club became more revolutionary. Refusing to comply with the racial segregation laws that prevailed across the country, he invited both mixed race audiences and talent to Cafe Society. Nicknamed "The Wrong Place for the Right People", the club became a cultural phenomenon and jazz legends like Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Art Tatum and Big Joe Turner all performed there.

Flourishing until 1950 when Josephson closed it to open the forgotten Cookery restaurant, the space soon reverted to its true calling as "One Sheridan Square Theatre". In the 1960's it became The Haven, a gay nightclub that was raided illegally and destroyed during a police action.

  • The Importance of Being Earnest at the Ridiculous Theater Company
  • Camille at the Ridiculous Theater Company
The first permanently based theatre that used the space was The Ridiculous Theatrical Company headed by Charles Ludlam whose ground-breaking drag actors, pop culture flourishes and farcical comedy plays soon earned him a major cult following. His classics Camille, the Mystery of Irma Vep and the Artificial jungle, all with men playing the female leads, were premiered in the theatre at 1 Sheridan Square. Ludlam died in 1987 and the neighbourhood turned the doors of his theatre into a memorial with flowers, candles and thanks for his massive contribution to American Theatre. Ludlam's partner Everett Quinton continued The Ridiculous Theatrical in the space and successfully had the facing street renamed Charles Ludlam Square.

When AXIS acquired the space in 1998 the interior was transformed to reflect Artistic Director Randy Sharp's vision of total theatrical immersion where audiences are surrounded by the experience of the play the moment they cross the threshold. Through the careful utilization of various media AXIS has produced an eclectic series of original and published plays (including Buchner's Woyzeck, Beckett's Play and Benjamin Baker's 1848 sensation A Glance at New York) with highly advanced, state of the art technological components that enhance the internal meaning of the material. Their episodic play HOSPITAL about the interior life of a man in a coma is a west village cult event every summer.

Loading the player
Billie Holiday at the Café Society I'm Gonna Lock My Heart 1939 aircheck
Loading the player
Charlie Parker at the Café Society 52nd St. Theme/Just Friends