Celebrating 10 Years: The Institutions of New Brooklyn 

Page 5 of 13

The Brick Theater

Brookyln has had BAM, one of the country’s premier performing arts institutions, for 150 years, so it’s not as if we’ve wanted for first-class theater. But over the last few years there’s been a boom of new theaters doing cutting-edge work, including The Brick in Williamsburg, cofounded by Michael Gardner and Robert Honeywell—still its artistic directors—in 2002. Housed in a former auto-body shop, the Metropolitan Avenue 70-seat space has featured award-winning theater ever since. We spoke to Gardner.


What brought you to Brooklyn in the first place?
Walt Whitman called it “the city of homes and churches.” While Manhattan was where you dressed up for a night on the town, for much of the 20th century Brooklyn was where you hung your hat. It was a badge of honor. Street Cred. Home of “The Bums.” Home of the working class. The Navy Yard. Coney. And the “quintessential city of immigrants.” Real New York. So there was the romance of that. Also, Manhattan rents were off the charts.

What's the most inspiring or exciting change you've witnessed in Brooklyn over the past few years?
The foodie explosion.

And the most worrisome?
The rent explosion.

What now-closed Brooklyn business or institution do you miss the most?
The Salvation Army on N. 7th Street. It was the central landmark of the Bedford stop for so long. It was recently knocked down. Purportedly, it’s being rebuilt as a three-story “upscale” Salvation Army. I guess it’s heartening that it will remain a Salvation Army, but that story seems to encapsulate over-trendy Williamsburg in a nutshell.

Would you ever consider leaving Brooklyn?
If trends continue, Brooklyn itself will have to leave Brooklyn to live in Jersey. I don’t know where Jersey’s going to go. If the money necessitates it, then yes, we’ll move. But I hope not. Brooklyn is our neighborhood and our family.

How has the local theater culture changed since you opened?
It’s booming. While Manhattan indie-theater spaces continue to shutter, the last 10 years have seen the birth of the Bushwick Starr, Panoply Performance Laboratory, the Kingsland Ward @ St. Johns, the Invisible Dog Art Center, JACK, and the Irondale Center, as well as the continued thriving of our friends at Triskelion Arts, the Collapsible Hole, Soundance Studio Theater, and CAVE.

Now we’re going to ask you to list a few favorites:
Neighborhood, other than your own:
DUMBO for the bridges. Carroll Gardens for Smith Street. Prospect Park for Prospect Park
Restaurant: Forcella for the Decumani. Dar 525 for the Pistachio Pizza. Suzume for the sushi. Dumont for the Dumac.
Bar: St. Mazie.
Coffee Shop: Cafe Grumpy.
Coffee shop: I live 5 blocks away from the bar. Essentially, I can sort of drink my way home at night and stop by at least 5 different bars. And I do.
Park: McGolrick.
Old-school Brooklyn institution: Giving long, explicit, confident directions to travelers, regardless of how certain you are of their accuracy.

Photo by Austin McAllister

The Brick
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The Brick

By Austin McAllister

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