The Belasco Theatre stands proudly to this day on 44th street in Midtown Manhattan. A gem of Neo-Georgian Architecture that still plays to Broadway audiences eight times a week. Envisioned by its namesake David Belasco, and designed by George Keister the theatre opened as the Stuyvesant Theatre. The theatre showed grand looks to the world through its exterior, but the interior of the building had been built for a specific purpose.
David Belasco was a pioneer amongst the Little Theatre Movement in America, and believed that the dramatic experience was influenced by the close contact of the actors and audience. This lead to the Belasco being designed as an intimate house in order to aid this experience and give the audience a closer feel to live performances. However this did not mean a lack of garishness or detail to the interiors. The interiors were just as stunning as the buildings ornate exteriors and overall facade.
The theatre was designed by one of the famous theatrical architects of his day, John Rapp. The interior included hand painted murals from local art schools, ceiling panels and light fixtures provided by Tiffany Studios. Belasco also insisted the theatre be built with the latest innovations of the theatre industry. These innovations included sophisticated lighting and hydraulics system, an elevator stage, vast wing and fly space, and a special effects studio. A man truly dedicated to this industry his lighting system was regarded as the best in the world and largely replicated. Along with the many amenities the theatre had Belasco built a 10-room duplex penthouse to be his residence as well as a workspace.
Belasco reportedly spent most of his days within the theatre, and in 1910 renamed the space after himself. His waking hours were dedicated to his craft and it remained that way until his death in 1931. Rumor has it though that even death could not keep Belasco away from his beloved theatre, and his spirit is said to remain to this day.
Multiple sources are cited as having seen a man who fits the likeness of David Belasco inhabiting the theatre. Those who have seen his ghost describe him as wearing a clerical collar and a cossack. The same outfit that had earned him the nickname “Bishop of Broadway” during his life. Along with sightings of his ghost come stories of curtains moving on their own, doors opening and closing by themselves, and even the elevator moving while not in operation.
Along with these ghostly ramblings that accompany many tales of the paranormal there is actors who tell stories of speaking with Belasco. Multiple actors have reported looking up into the dark balcony and seeing a man fitting Belasco’s description looking back at them. After the performance he will come up to them shake their hands and tell them they did a wonderful job.
Another famous story reported by the New York Times was the story of the caretaker and his dog. The dog would supposedly bark at the same spot in the theatre everyday at 4pm. This is when David Belasco would make his rounds and alert the dog to his presence.
Even though he was known as the “Bishop of Broadway,” or even “The Monk,” Belasco was not known as a saint. He enjoyed the company of many a chorus girl in his life and his risque love life seemed to accompany him after death. There are reports of, The Blue Lady, who haunts the house along with Mr. Belasco. The next time you go to see a show at this beautiful old theatre pay close attention for anything unusual. Perhaps you’ll get to see the theatres namesake and his Blue Lady as well.