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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
At the height of the 1920s building boom, the Chanin brothers wanted to build an intimate theater.
Knowing it would not be economically viable, they built the Theatre Masque (now the Golden) as part of the complex with the larger Majestic and Bernard Jacobs theaters, making the enterprise more cost effective. All three theaters were stylistically linked through the romantic, eclectic style that Krapp and the Chanins called Spanish modern. In 1930 the Chanins transferred ownership of all three venues to the Shuberts. When John Golden assumed its management seven years later, he renamed it after himself. An actor, playwright, songwriter, producer, and successful businessman as well as a philanthropist, this was the third theater to be named after him. Golden’s shows catered to what he perceived was the public’s desire for clean entertainment. One of Broadway’s most beloved producers, he started the Stage Relief Fund and Stage Door Canteen. Golden ran the theater until 1946, at which time the Shuberts leased it to a foreign film exhibitor. Two years later it became a legitimate theater again, presenting extraordinary productions such as Waiting for Godot, The Gin Game, Crimes of the Heart, Falsettos, and Avenue Q.
Herbert J. Krapp was the most prolific theater designer on Broadway; he was the architect for fifteen of the remaining Broadway theaters. Krapp studied at Cooper Union and started his career at Herts & Tallant, where he met the Shubert brothers.
Krapp became the Shubert brothers’ house architect and designed twelve theaters for them. He also designed six theaters for the Chanin brothers. Krapp was famous for his ability to work with low budgets and small or awkward plots of land. For example, Krapp designed a diagonal floor plan for the Ambassador Theatre to fit it into an awkward space.
He innovated the use of stadium seating, first seen in the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Krapp often used most of his budget on the interiors of his theaters. While he left the exteriors relatively bare, he used elaborate brickwork to add visual interest for a small cost. Examples of this brickwork can be seen on the exteriors of the Broadhurst and the Gerald Schoenfeld Theaters. Krapp's career as a theater designer ended with the bust of the theater boom during the Depression. He transitioned to industrial design and became a building assessor for New York City. He also continued to work with the Shuberts until 1963 as the supervisor of existing venue maintenance and renovations.
© Carol Rosegg
© Joan Marcus
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