Queens Theatre and the Towers

History of Queens Theatre

Queens Theatre began as the Theaterama, one of three structures designed by renowned modernist architect Philip Johnson to comprise the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.  Its neighbors were the triple Astro-View towers, with its 226 and 181-foot high observation decks and 85-foot high restaurant and lounge, and the Tent of Tomorrow, a massive open-air pavilion with a multi-colored fiberglass roof and large-scale map of New York State on its terrazzo floor.

While the Theaterama showed a 360-degree panoramic film on the State of New York inside, its exterior was an equally impressive sight: its façade was adorned with large-scale original artwork by some of the most famous pop artists of the day, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Ellsworth Kelly.

When the fair closed in 1965, the pavilion was one of the few structures spared demolition.

In 1972, Theaterama was converted from a movie theatre to a live entertainment venue. After being managed by a number of organizations, Queens Theatre was officially established in 1989 and, after a $4 million renovation, Queens Theatre officially opened on October 16, 1993 with a gala performance hosted by Kitty Carlisle Hart that honored Queens Borough President Claire Schulman.

Today, Queens Theatre is a vibrant performing arts center with three performance spaces: its 472-seat mainstage theatre, 99-seat studio theatre and its intimate cabaret & cocktail bar.  The theatre is committed to presenting world-class theatre, music and dance as well as programming that reflects the diversity of the community that supports it.  Queens Theatre’s annual Latino Cultural Festival, is the nation’s largest and most important multi-disciplinary festival of Latino culture, featuring music, theatre, dance, film and family productions, as well as visual art exhibitions. 

Queens Theatre is also one of the only performing arts centers in the borough that actively develops new works through two New Play Development programs, including Immigrant Voices Project, a program that develops works that represent the rich cultural diversity of New York City.  More than 75 new plays have received staged readings and productions at Queens Theatre, most notably Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph, which premiered on Broadway in 2011 in a production that starred Robin Williams and directed by Moises Kaufman.