By Michelle Ross, February 9, 2023

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) – Three years and $24 million later, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village is back in business.

The theater helped launch many successful careers for big stars like Bette Midler, Sam Shepard and Tony winner Andre De Shields, who said he thinks of La MaMa as a dinner and welcoming feast.

“A long table where everybody from the world can sit and get to know one another in all of our beautiful differentiation,” De Shields said.

La MaMa was also at the forefront of experimental theater. The transformation was the vision of the late Ellen Stewart more than six decades ago.

In a ceremony prior to the ribbon-cutting, performers rang bells – what Stewart did when welcoming guests.

The community gathered outside the building – shutting down the block – to celebrate.

“It’s really hard for me not to get emotional as I see our beautiful eclectic community,” artistic director Mia Yoo said.

Inside, the lobby will be a place to exhibit art and perform play readings. Posters are displayed in the stairwell from the archives. Original walls remain and a community space has been built. The building is also now ADA accessible with a newly installed elevator.

Funding from the city and state governments made the transformation possible.

“It is part of our holistic healing collectively,” New York City Council member Carlina Rivera said. “We can all connect through arts and culture, and La MaMa is a symbol of that.”

La MaMa was De Shields’s first artistic home and now it’s home again more than 60 years later.

“Welcome to La MaMa,” De Shields said. “Welcome home.”

The first performance that will take place at the theater post-renovations will be The Hip Hopera of Spinokio by Jeghetto in March.

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