The Historic Home
Of The New Phoenix
The Historic Home Of The New Phoenix Theatre was built in 1884, on land deeded to Buffalo by Ebenezer Johnson, Buffalo’s first mayor, and originally served as a lecture hall for Buffalo Seminary (some say the spirits of ladies from that period keep a warm, whimsical watch on our work today.) Thereafter, it served as a “séance house,” a vaudeville house, and then a soup kitchen.
It was in that latter guise, as a mission run by the American Rescue Workers, that it came to be abandoned and fell into disrepair.
A little over 100 years after the building’s construction, Richard Lambert moved to Buffalo from Brooklyn and into a new house he owned with his partner, the actor Maxim Mazumdar.
Mazumdar’s death found Lambert living alone in the new house and working as an actor. He gained entrance to 95 Johnson Park and sold the house in which he lived to purchase it, moving into the third floor and beginning renovations and restorations himself and later with the help of area foundations. He officially opened the New Phoenix Theatre On The Park - named after The Phoenix Theatre in Montreal, Canada, which Mazumdar operated - in 1996, later deeding responsibility for the mortgage - and ultimately ownership of the property - to the company.
A grant from the Joint Fund for the Arts has allowed us to convert much of the theatre's upper spaces into a rehearsal hall, Green Room, offices and studio spaces we share with other companies and visiting artists. The building at 95 has thus served as a stage not only for the New Phoenix Company but for a distinguished roster of organizations that has included Buffalo Ensemble Theatre (under Timothy C. White), Road Less Traveled, Subversive Theatre, Skeletons in the Closet Puppet Theatre, Red Thread Theatre, Folkloric Dance, and more.
The generous support of funders like The Rupp Foundation, The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, The Western New York Foundation, The Joint Fund for the Arts, Give for Greatness, and the M&T Charitable Trust (in whose honor we have planted several new trees are in the Park) have helped with continued renovations and services to the community, such as free performances, summer productions in Johnson Park, and new trees and sidewalks.
The New Phoenix Theatre became outright owners of the building earlier this year, and is now the only theatre company in Buffalo that owns its home outright.