Playing Host to Celebs and Newcomers Alike

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ByAngela Barbuti

Tucked away on West 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue is the 130-seat Triad Theater. Inside, actors make their Off-Broadway debuts, celebrities take the stage with friends and audiences are always entertained by an eclectic variety of shows, from Erotic Broadway to the smash hit Celebrity Autobiography. We spoke to owner Peter Martin about what to expect there.

West Side Spirit: How did you get started at the Triad?

Peter Martin: I was the company manager of a show called Forever Plaid at the theater; it went on to become one of the five most successful shows Off-Broadway-the producer put in $135,000 and it grossed $300 million worldwide. It seemed like a great business. In 1995, when I was 30, I had the opportunity to buy the theater. I was able to get in at the right time.

The theater was a black box originally. About four years ago, I redesigned it based on 1930s movie palaces. I love those kinds of theaters and did a lot of research. I recreated the bathrooms, added a VIP performer lounge. People tell me, "I've seen this in Europe."

What is the history of the theater?

It started in the early '80s with Forbidden Broadway. It wasn't even a theater back then; it was a bar/restaurant called Palsson's Supper Club. Actor Gerard Alessandrini started writing spoofs of Broadway shows and they were performed there on weekends.

What is your favorite show at the theater currently?

Celebrity Autobiography. Celebrities read from other celebrities' memoirs in a comedic tone. You'll have Matthew Broderick reading from Tommy Lee's autobiography. On another night, you'll see Kristen Wiig reciting the poetry of Suzanne Somers. We've probably had more famous people in it than any show on Broadway.

Have there been any memorable mishaps?

There were two sold-out shows one New Year's Eve and the coat check girl misplaced all the numbers. People were trying to get their coats out from the first show while others were coming up the stairs for the midnight show. It was a disaster. Another time, John Simon, a well-known theater critic, came in to review Forbidden Broadway. He checked his umbrella and somehow it got lost. A couple of days later, he sent us a bill for $300.

To what do you attribute your success?

Times have changed Off-Broadway. In the last 10 years, tons of theaters have closed. I've really had to adapt by instating a new booking policy. In the course of a month, we can have 30 different shows. I'm always thinking of how I can improve the theater and what's going on in the entertainment industry. On Broadway, a musical costs about $15 million.

Off-Broadway, you can experiment more. Things get started Off-Broadway then move to Broadway. For instance, there's a new musical in the works about ['50s teen idol] Dion called The Wanderer. The first reading was at The Triad six weeks ago.

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