Now Playing: Tribeca's New Flea Theater Is Up and Running

The resident company The Bats rehearse in the Siggy, the theater named for Flea supporter Sigourney Weaver. It is one of two theaters in the building modeled after the two venues in the former Flea at 41 White Street. The third and largest theater, The Sam, can seat up to 120 people. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Sep. 19, 2017

After moving from its 41 White Street location of 21 years, the Flea Theater has been putting the finishing touches on its new three-theater at 20 Thomas St, an 11,500-square-foot venue, which celebrated its groundbreaking nearly four years ago. “We’re only six months behind,” laughed Carol Ostrow, the theater’s producing director, who took the Trib on a recent tour. The Flea celebrated its grand opening on Sept. 28.

The new space, designed by Architecture Research Office, may feel familiar to Flea fans. The same seats have made the four block move, and the resident actors, The Bats, will serve in the front of house before shows just as they did on White Street. “It’s cozy,” says Ostrow. “The vibe is the same.”

The theater bought the building in 2010 and raised most of the moves $25 million cost through private donations, grants from the city, and from the federal government through the Lower Man­hattan Development Corp. Two million dollars remains to be raised, Ostrow said.

Previously housing a collections agency, the rebuilt structure represents a considerable expansion for the Flea, with one more performance space, affording the opportunity to offer additional programming. Foremost is a series of plays for children called “Cereals,” on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Below is a preview of the new theater. Photos by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib


Carol Ostrow, The Flea's producing director, in front of the theater's new Thomas Street location. LED interactive posters will be on all night, giving information about shows and events. “I hope they’ll be like a beacon of light on this dark street and will draw people in,” she said.


Members of the resident company, The Bats, rehearse for "Serials," the late-night, 10-minute play showcase in the Siggy theatre, named for Flea supporter Sigourney Weaver. The "Serials" season starts on Oct. 19.


Backstage at the Siggy. “Plug” entrances were blasted through the original wall, a nod to the old basement space at The Flea and to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. “Shakespeare took you everywhere with this kind of stage entrance. We’re very off, off, off Broadway but the plugs make the stage very versatile,” Ostrow said.


The Flea office, with work stations for eight of The Flea's 11 full-time staff. An additional three work stations are on the main floor.


One of The Flea's new dressing rooms. Cramped dressing rooms were among the limitations of the former Flea.


The Sam, named for the theatrical agent (and early mentor to co-founders Sigourney Weaver and Jim Simpson) Sam Cohn, is on the building's second floor and has flexible seating for up to 120 people. The first show to be performed there, "Syncing Ink," opens on Sept. 25 and will play in the round.


Master Electrician Zack Weeks works on lights in the new lighting grid of the Sam. The Flea’s old lights have been recycled in the Siggy.


In the Pete, the theater named for playwright A.R. (Pete) Gurney, The Bats rehearse a show for the all new “Cereals” kids’ shows that will play there on Saturdays and Sundays. The program, aimed at children between ages 5 and 9, will offer stories based on folk tales that Ostrow says will reflect New York’s diverse population.


Ostrow with Aleesha Nash, The Flea’s Audience Development Associate, in the outdoor space behind the theater. Plans are afoot for performances and audiences to spill out onto the courtyard as doors open directly from the Pete, the ground-floor theater. The Pete and the courtyard each can hold 40 people.