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Featured Collection

History of the Brooklyn Majestic / BAM Harvey Theater

In 1987, BAM’s leader Harvey Lichtenstein sought a venue for Peter Brook’s theatrical epic, The Mahabharata. He and Brook investigated the derelict Majestic (which Lichtenstein passed on the way to work) by climbing up a ladder and through a window. It was ideal—an amphitheater-style layout which resembled Brook’s home theater of Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris. It was renovated in 10 months with assistance by the City of New York, interested in reviving Fort Greene. The mezzanine level was removed, reflected also in reducing the portals flanking the proscenium from three levels to two, the orchestra seating raised and expanded, and the ruined flip-down seats replaced by benches (now, 853 modern seats), among other changes. The decaying look was kept; it uncannily evoked Bouffes du Nord down to chipped layers of paint. The nine-hour Mahabharata was a hit for BAM—the first of many productions that have defined the Harvey (renamed for Lichtenstein in 1999) as a favorite theater for leading directors and performers around the world. The Harvey Theater first opened as the Majestic in 1904, four years before BAM relocated nearby after its original building on Montague had burned down. As part of the entertainment district, the Majestic showed dramas, vaudeville, and test runs for Broadway hopefuls. In 1942, it was converted into an elegant cinema house by a Parisian who had fled the Nazis, but by the 1960s, it was shuttered, in part due to the rise of TV. In 1967, Lichtenstein began his long and fruitful tenure at BAM, a highlight of which would be the opening of the Majestic.

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