A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 27, 2004
Off-Off Broadway
"Off-Off Broadway" (or O.O.B.) has really small houses. Did the Caffe Cino start it all, at the end of the 1950s? If not, it was certainly one of the first.


Wikipedia: Off-Off Broadway
Off-Off-Broadway theatrical productions in New York City are those in theatres that are smaller than Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres. Off-Off-Broadway theatres are often defined as theatres that have fewer than 100 seats, though the term can be used for any show in the New York City area that employs union actors, but not under an Off-Broadway, Broadway, or LORT contract. It is often used as a term relating to any show with non-union actors. The shows range from professional productions by established artists to small amateur performances

History
The Off-Off-Broadway movement began in 1958 as a reaction to Off-Broadway, and a "complete rejection of commercial theatre". Among the first venues for what would soon be called "Off-Off-Broadway" were coffeehouses in Greenwich Village, particularly the Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street, operated by the eccentric Joe Cino, who early on took a liking to actors and playwrights and agreed to let them stage plays there without bothering to read the plays first, or to even find out much about the content. Also integral to the rise of Off-Off-Broadway were Ellen Stewart at La MaMa, and Al Carmines at the Judson Poets' Theater, located at Judson Memorial Church.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
off-off-Broadway, n. and adj. (and adv.)
orig. U.S.
A. n.
A class of theatres in New York City that mount experimental, non-union, or amateur productions; theatrical productions that are further from the mainstream than those produced off-Broadway; spec. those taking place in informal and unconventional venues.
1957 N.Y. Times 5 May ii. 3/2 One steady observer of off Broadway drama suggested that what was needed was off-off Broadway.
1972 M. Valgemae Accelerated Grimace p. xii, Much of what is happening in the American theatre of today—in the lofts and churches and coffee houses of off-off-Broadway—is firmly rooted in the expressionist tradition.
B. adj. (and adv.)
Of, relating to, or designating this kind of theatrical production or venue. Also as adv.
In quot. 1958 with reference to a cinema.
1958 N.Y. Times 24 Aug. ii. 1/8 Those who would see it now will have to go looking for it in the off-off Broadway theatres.
1967 Sat. Rev. (U.S.) 10 June 20 These off-off Broadway playwrights are emerging in a period when no producer can expect to present their unconventional works except at a financial loss.

OCLC WorldCat record
Eight plays from off-off Broadway
Author: Nick Orzel; Michael Townsend Smith; Frank O'Hara; Lanford Wilson; Sam Shepard; All authors
Publisher: Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 1966.
Edition/Format: Book : English

1 February 1968, Village Voice, pg. 26, col. 2:
The Caffe Cino is the oldest surviving off-off Broadway theatre, dating from the late 1950s when Joe Cino, who had no theatrical ambitions of his own, began to let friends recite poetry and perform scenes from plays within a year of opening his cafe.

14 March 1968, Village Voice, pg. 42, col. 4:
The Caffe Cino opened in 1958 and started presenting new plays as early as 1960, making possibilities that grew into Off-Off Broadway and a whole new impetus in our torpid theatre. It is the oldest Off-Off-Broadway theatre and the only real cafe-theatre surviving.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Monday, September 27, 2004 • Permalink