DIMMING THE MARQUEE LIGHTS
A Broadway Tradition now adopted to honor those theatre luminaries around the country.
The tradition of dimming the lights of theatre marquees began slowly on Broadway in the 1950s. According to a 2013 article in The New York Post, house lights in all Broadway theaters were first dimmed in honor of Gertrude Lawrence, who died in September 1952 while she was starring in the Broadway musical “The King and I.” The second honoree, according to Time magazine, was Oscar Hammerstein II in 1960, and the third honoree, according to Playbill, was the actor Alfred Lunt in 1977. On Broadway there is a committee of the Broadway League, a trade association of Broadway theater owners and producers, who make the decisions as to who should get the honor. Today the tradition is much more common – some recent honorees were Ruby Dee, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eli Wallach and Marian Seldes.
Here in Chicago we now participate in this time-honored tradition – recently honored have been Bernie Yvon, Tony DeSantis and James M. Nederlander.
On Friday, April 28, at 7:00 p.m., the entire Chicago Theatre Community will participate in honoring the Chicago treasure, Martha Lavey, past Artistic Director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, either by dimming their marquees or through a moment of silence.
Broadway In Chicago is proud to participate in this tradition and, together with the Goodman Theatre, will create a proper tribute in the Downtown Theatre District. If you care to witness this, it will be most impactful by standing on the Dearborn and Randolph Street at 7 p.m. on April 28.
Remembrance from Eileen LaCario, Vice President of Broadway In Chicago
Martha Lavey was a treasure of the Chicago theatre community. In an age where we are so desperate for true leadership, Martha Lavey was the living definition.
As you will read in so many of her remembrances, she embraced us all and inspired us to lead lives in our community – and beyond – that were far larger than what we thought possible. She is, and will always be, an illustration of how true leadership can make a difference. For decades she inspired me as a woman, as an administrator of artists and as a leader that went far beyond words I can describe. Martha honored every creative, every arts administrator and every theatre large or small – knowing that your struggles were her struggles and seeing every outlet for theatre as the potential to bring us all closer together.
I miss her today and mourn the loss of the potential that additional years with Martha would have given all of us. But there was a reason that she paid such close attention to all of us – we are the possibility of carrying on her legacy – her listening skills, her care for each and every one of us and her love for this community.
She expects us to carry on and in carrying on we will honor her name forever. Farewell to Chicago’s treasure, gone too soon.