Theatre Walks 2014-2015

Award winning author, Cezar Del Valle has had many years of experience developing and leading walking tours of New York’s theatrical and cultural districts.

Mindful of the budgetary constraints facing most non-profits, Del Valle is willing to discuss fees.

Yiddish Walk.jpg.

January 8, 2012 walking tour for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP)
“Your amount of historic knowledge was nothing short of incredible”
-Dana Schulz, Program and Administrative Associate, GVSHP

Times Square:
Explore the “Crossroads of the World” to discover some of the lesser known sites along the “Great White Way.”

Lower East Side:
Five walks are available of New York City’s former melting pot of the immigrant working class.

Introductory Walk(s)
Three tours offer a basic introduction to the neighborhood’s showbiz past from immigrant theatre to off-off-Broadway and early television.

Yiddish Rialto
Stroll Second Avenue as Del Valle relates tales of Adler, Picon, Thomashefsky and other greats of the Yiddish stage.

The colorful, salty history of the Bowery, once alive with Yiddish, Italian and Chinese theatres, vaudeville houses, dime museums, concert saloons and early film venues.

Downtown Brooklyn:
A former hub of theatrical activity, downtown Brooklyn is currently enjoying a rebirth with the development of the new BAM Cultural District.

Coney Island:
Del Valle invites you to Brooklyn’s “Sodom by the Sea” where Gary Grant walked on stilts, Harpo Marx made his stage début and where the music halls ran early & late.

Visit our Theatre Talks website for information and reviews.

Above photo copyright Betty Sword, all rights reserved.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Book of the year by the Theatre Historical Society. 


Hollywood Premiere on the Bowery, 1924

Universal Studios decided to stage the première of Fools Highway far from the glittering lights of Times Square. Instead, they selected the Atlantic Garden, a seedy movie house, at 50 Bowery, that normally offered a steady diet of tenth-run photoplays. There were reasons for this rather odd choice.

highwayFrom AllPosters.Com

Based on the novel My Mamie Rose, the film centered along the Bowery at Pell Street during the 1890s. The neighborhood reconstructed on the back lot with the “L,” the street cars and buildings. From old photographs, Steve Brodie’s saloon and other resorts along the Bowery recreated.

Established by William Kramer in 1858, the Atlantic Garden was formerly among the most notable of the old haunts. A large hall extending back to Elizabeth Street, it could hold more than a thousand people while offering a variety of events and amenities. As the Garden’s best years faded into the past, it became a Yiddish theatre and then a boxing arena before turning to motion pictures in 1919.

Atlantic-GardenOn February 29,1924, a bit of that past would be recaptured with the opening of Fools Highway starring Mary Philbin.

The Sun and the Globe, February 28, 1924:

“Elaborate preparations have been made for putting the Atlantic Garden, one of the landmarks, of the Bowery, back into the period when it was a popular eating and entertainment establishment.

The Sun and the Globe, March 1, 1924:

“Members of the Universal staff greeted us and showed us to a picturesque bar on side of the lobby. ‘This,’ they said, ‘is a replica of the old bar of the Atlantic Garden of the olden days. Have a drink?’”

Among the invited guests were George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Jessie Lasky.and James J. Walker (standing in for Al Smith, whose official duties kept him away). The Sun and the Globe reported a rumor of notable gangsters in the audience.

The air of nostalgia continued with a stage presentation featuring performers that had once graced the stage of the Atlantic Garden. Harry Von Tilzer sang a few favorites, accompanied by a ladies’ orchestra, two members of which had played in the first ladies’ orchestra at the Garden.

Maude Nugent, who wrote Rose O’Grady, led the audience in singing “this heart-hymn of Irish America.”

Composer Charles Lawler “swept the crowd with tears and memories with his famous ballad ‘The Sidewalks of New York.’’’

In terms of publicity the evening had been a triumph, but the reviews for the film were less than ecstatic.

Excerpts from the Sun and the Globe, March 1, 1924:

“Along about 10 P.M. the picture started . A few rather interesting views of the old Bowery –all sets in the Universal studios—were shown. For some reason these didn’t excite us. We waited patiently for the story to start; the picture got half over, and still the story hadn’t started.”

With Hollywood gone, the old Garden sank back into its misery, closing in 1928 as a “cheap Bowery restaurant.” In that year the exteriors altered on Elizabeth Street and on the Bowery. The interior gutted with only a few architectural elements remaining. Those were lost in a 2013 battle for preservation.

The Lo-Down

The Bowery Boogie

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.

The Brooklyn Theatre Index, Volume III

Update April 2014

Integrative Ink is now formatting for publication:

The Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume III
Coney Island Including Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach

The book will be available in June 2014, just in time for the summer at Coney Island.



Excerpts from the New York Sun, October 31, 1931:

“In the old days the music halls of the Bowery ran early and late. The girls on a stage at the rear could be seen from the street, but only their legs were visible. A curtain drop shielded the rest of the body. If you wanted to see more you went inside at the earnest solicitation of a barker who would not permit a crowd to block the entrance.”

“If you wanted to see more of the Bowery girls and witness their performance you entered and took a seat to be waited on at a table by a waiter who wore an apron and whose arms were bare. He was a busy fellow working on commission, and if you did not buy his beer fast enough to suit him, he did not hesitate to tell you some persons were waiting to take your seat.

“The show in these places would not satisfy today, but it was the real thing then. There were other places of entertainment outside these girl shows. Motion pictures then a little crude were shown, and Stauch’s dance hall had one of the largest floors in the country, where music was supplied by two bands.”

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.

Lower East Side Preservation Initiative’s Moveable Feast

Lower East Side Preservation Initiative

An Afternoon on The Lower East Side
Sunday May 18, 2014

Part One: Tour the Bowery
2:00-4:00 pm
with theatre historian Cezar Del Valle
Meet in front of the Liz Christy Garden, Bowery and Houston Street

The Bowery entertainment district was once bursting with Yiddish, Chinese and Italian Theatres, vaudeville houses, early film venues, dime museums, and concert saloons. Explore this colorful, earthy history with theatre historian Cezar Del Valle.

Admission: $20 LESPI Members: $15

New York Public Digital Collection

New York Public Library Digital Collection

Part Two:


4:00 – 6:00 pm

At the Kehila Janina Kedosha synagogue, a New York City Landmark, enjoy  a delicious lunch of traditional Greek-Jewish kosher yaprakes, bourekas, kourlouia, Greek salad, seasonal fruit, hot and cold beverages.
Tour the beautifully restored 1927 synagogue interior, and visit the synagogue’s fascinating museum on the history of the congregation and Greek American Jewish life.

Meet  at: Kehila Janina Kedosha Synagogue at 280 Broome St, between EldrIdge and Allen Streets
Admission: $25
LESPI and Synagogue members $20
LESPI MEMBERS: $30 with any questions.

This program is part of Lower East Side History Month 

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.
He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.