New York, N.Y.
31 Cornelia Street
From 1958 to 1967, Joe Cino ran a coffeehouse at this address that has gone down in performance history as the place where both gay theater and Off-Off-Broadway were born. The Beat generation cafe was not intended at the beginning as either a theater or a gay hangout, though Cino himself was gay. “My idea,” he said in a Village Voice interview in 1965, “was…to start with a beautiful, intimate, warm, non-commercial, friendly atmosphere where people could come and not feel pressured or harassed. I also thought anything could happen. The one thing I never thought of was fully staged productions of plays.” But that’s exactly what happened. On a dark, narrow street in Greenwich Village, in a room described by one reporter as a “shoebox,” gay playwrights such as William M. Hoffman, Doric Wilson, Robert Patrick, and Lanford Wilson got their start, as did gay-friendly writers Sam Shepard and John Guare.
Sadly, the accidental death of his lover, lighting designer John Torrey, sent Cino into despair and drugs. Cino committed suicide in 1967, and the “magic time,” as William Hoffman called it, came to a close.