Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Circle in the Square


Left to Right: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso taking a break from the filming of Pull My Daisy. Photo by John Cohen

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

The cliché images of poetry and jazz are well engrained in the pop culture psyche of the 1950s and the Beat Generation. The seeds of that image were naturally found in Greenwich Village and specifically at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Located at 5 Sheridan Square, The Theatre was opended in 1951 by Jose Quintero and Theodore Mann and staged some the first productions of The Iceman Cometh and Our Town. By the mid 1950s the space was also hosting poetry and jazz that culminated into a two week engagement featuring  Jack Kerouac and Philip Lamantia accompanied by the music of David Amram who quickly entered the circle of the rising Beat scene. In between sets the gang would head next door to Louis’ Tavern known for it’s cheap food and equally cheap drinks, the latter causing most of the participants to bail on the second set altogether. Left alone on stage, Armam would soldier on with french horn in hand and a piano nearby, improvising poetry and lyrics while the lighting man created some of the first psychedelic lighting effects.

Since 1960 the Theatre moved to a few spaces in the Village eventually ending up at 235 West 50th Street where it exists today.

What: Circle in the Square Theatre

Who: David Amram, Jack Kerouac, Philip Lamantia

Where: 5 Sheridan Square (near Barrow and West 4th Streets)

One Response to “Circle in the Square”
  1. joey says:

    I remember a fabulous night there in 1966 (or so) when Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert played an evening of Kurt Weill songs. By chance, I had run into a girl I had loved in my teens and she was an usher there. She invited me and we saw the show together. That was an evening that made a memory that will remain until death.

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