Harnessing excitement on East 24th
• • Her hard-working father, formerly a bare-knuckle boxer whose arena-name was "Battling Jack," muscled his way into a growing business centered on the horse and harness. For years his trade was bridle-maker. In between jobs, Jack West would rent a horse and wagon and sell fruit in his neighborhood. As a kid, his daughter would go to Rockaway Avenue to pick up the horse and cart.
• • That was the lucrative "carriage trade" era when master harness makers headed to New York City. In 1907, Mayer Miller launched his business, setting up his own harness shop in Manhattan near Madison Square Park, in the center of what was then the horsemarket of the east, an area devoted primarily to stables, the workhorse, and the busy horse auction market. In 1917, Mayer Miller established The Miller Harness Company, Inc., which moved in 1939 to its commodious headquarters at 117-123 East 24th Street. When he died n 1962, Miller's Harness Company, by then managed by his son, was considered the largest horse emporium in the world. The cavernous basement space, with its high ceilings, was used for decades as their chic selling space. Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein were regular customers, stocking up on refined horse haberdashery and developing their own fashion concepts from the expensive equestrian apparel sold by Miller's.
• • East 24th Street in Manhattan • •
• • For over 130 years, New Yorkers who ride headed to East 24th Street, which held its own as the equine epicenter, the location for emporiums such as Manhattan Saddlery (formerly known as Miller's Harness Company) and H. Kauffman & Sons Saddlery.
• • A portion of the old Miller Harness Company is now a New York City-funded non-profit theatre complex.
• • The Algonquin Theatre (at 123 East 24th Street, NYC 10010) houses two air-conditioned performance spaces: the 99-seat "Kaufman" and the 40-seat "Parker." The Kaufman features a proscenium stage that is 21 feet wide and 23 feet deep.
• • The larger playhouse is named in honor of George S. Kaufman [16 November 1889 — 2 June 1961], an American playwright, theatre director and producer, humorist, and drama critic. The petite playing space honors another Algonquin Round Table member: author Dorothy Parker [22 August 1893 — 7 June 1967]. Both writers attended performances of Mae West's plays during the 1920s and critiqued them.
• • During July 9th-20th, 2008, the history play, "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" will be staged at the Algonquin Theatre, as part of the Annual Fresh Fruit Festival, announced NYC director Louis Lopardi, who capably helms A Company Of Players. Established in 1979 by Founding Director Ken Bachtold, A Company Of Players is dedicated to developing the skills of actors and others in the performing arts community, and to presenting plays that reflect the social, political, and human issues of our time. Their motto: "Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer to shape it." — — Vladimir Mayakovsky.
• • Set during the Prohibition Era, when actress-playwright Mae West was arrested and jailed for staging two gay plays on Broadway, "Courting Mae West" will shortly begin a workshop under the direction of Mr. Lopardi, who will oversee the casting of the play and the rehearsals, an exciting process that will shepherd the 95-minute serious-minded comedy into readiness for a July production at The Algonquin.
• • This summer, Mae West will be back onstage, enjoying the limelight. The theatre of excitement is about to raise its curtain and harness its audience's expectations.
• • Algonquin Theatre 123 East 24th Street [between Park Avenue South & Lexington Avenue], New York, NY 10010
• • Subways: #6 Train to East 23rd or 28th Street @ Park Avenue; the N, R or W train to West 23rd Street @ Broadway
• • Parking at 111 East 24th Street, NYC
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage during July 2008.
Courting Mae West
• • Photo: Courting Mae West • • Maebill • •
• • Photo: The Algonquin Theatre • • 2007 • •