The Rehearsal Club: The Revitalization of a Dream

This past Wednesday, I had the immense privilege to attend the Rehearsal Club’s plaque installation and reception held at the Museum of Modern Art. The event was such a full-circle moment for me. I interned with the Rehearsal Club as their social media director from December 2020 to May 2021. The Rehearsal Club’s mission is to inspire and support future generations of aspiring young female artists. I am proof that these women, at their cores, believe in the organization’s mission. Even though they focus on women in the performing arts, they were able to provide me with incredible opportunities that jumpstarted my career. I will never be able to truly express the extent of their mentorship, friendship, guidance and expertise. It was amazing to meet the people I worked with in person for the first time and share with them how much they impacted me. Not only did they give me the chance to build my portfolio, but a philanthropic seed was implanted in me that reinvigorated my love of service. I was extremely involved in organizations in high school, but a lot of it was focused on hours instead of impact. In college, we did a lot of benefit nights or events to raise money, which was great to know that we could make an impact. However, I wanted to be more involved with an organization from start to finish. Working with women that this organization touched reminded me why it is so important to give back. 

Before getting into more about the Rehearsal Club and the event, I wanted to thank the two people who made this opportunity possible: Margaret Darlow and Gale Patron. I also want to thank the Outreach and Communications Committee members that made my time at the Rehearsal Club so enjoyable: Charla Hayen, Dolores Gordon, Linda Cool, Ellen Zalk, Bonnie Boroian and Michelle Smith. Also, a huge thank you to Cynthia Darlow. I was definitely starstruck since she has been in numerous things I have watched. She was incredibly kind, and I was taken aback when she said she had heard about my work. Meeting some of you this past week was so special. I felt the same warm welcome as I did at the first committee meeting. You are all so inspiring, and I admire you all for so many reasons. I appreciate you taking me in with open arms and teaching me so much about the industry, the history, communication and myself.

What we achieved from December 2020 to May 2021 was truly remarkable. With the help of the Outreach and Communications Committee, we were able to create a social media plan to preserve the legacy and promote the organization’s year-long matching gift campaign. As a result of the social media rebranding, the organization raised $100,000 in the first seven weeks, meeting its annual goal. What was so special about this social media rebranding was that it was a way to share the incredible stories to a new generation and give those a chance to reflect on their own memories with TRC. As I researched the history and spoke to the Club’s alumni, I realized that I was a part of something much bigger than myself and had been tasked with representing how important it was to others. Some incredible artists credit the Rehearsal Club as a key component of their success. I am delighted that the new residents will be able to share this bond with those that came before them.

The first Rehearsal Club opened its doors in 1913 in the heart of New York City. The Rehearsal Club was first housed on West 46th street and later moved to West 45th in 1920. The West 45th residence accommodated over 20 girls, which was about only half of the demand at the time. The Rehearsal Club would move once more to two brownstones on West 53rd owned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. He leased them for $1 per year to the Club until the 1979 closing. In 2006, TRC was revived by numerous alums across the country, taking shape as a social club. It was not until 2019 that TRC received its 501(c)3 status to rejuvenate the original dream in a new form; the dream of having a physical location still lingered in their minds. In 2020, the Rehearsal Club announced its partnership with the Webster Apartments in New York to provide subsidized housing for young women pursuing careers in the arts. The Rehearsal Club was back.

This past Wednesday, the events I attended were specifically for a commemorative plaque installation at the New York Public Library, followed by a reception at the MoMA. The plaque is meant to celebrate the former location on 53rd street. Blythe Danner, a notable alum of the Rehearsal Club, played a pivotal role in the plaque installation. In her address, she said she felt like it was a way for her late husband, Bruce Paltrow, to live on. He dreamed of an industry where women and minorities could have the same opportunities to achieve their performing arts dreams. Gale Brewer from the New York City Council also said a few words about the importance of preserving historical archives and how TRC is a part of New York City’s vast performing arts history. Mayor Eric Adams could not be there but someone to speak on his behalf saying the following:

Dear Friends:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to tonight’s celebration honoring The Rehearsal Club (TRC). Founded in 1913, TRC provided generations of young women a safe, welcoming home in Manhattan’s Theater District as they pursued careers in the performing arts. Many of its talented residents went on to enjoy successful careers on Broadway and in music, dance, radio, film, and television, and its alumnae include such acclaimed artists as Carol Burnett, Blythe Danner, Diane Keaton, and Kim Cattrall, among other notable individuals. The boarding house closed in 1979, but its influence lives on in the hearts of its former residents, many of whom have joined forces to preserve its legacy and raise funds to re-open an affordable sanctuary for women at the Webster Apartments on West 34th Street. Tonight, I am pleased to join TRC alumnae and supporters at the New York Public Library’s 53rd Street branch for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honor of the residence’s longtime location on this block, to be followed by a reception and performances across the street at the Museum of Modern Art. This evening’s program not only recognizes the important role TRC played in our city’s diverse creative community, but also celebrates its rebirth as a nonprofit organization that offers professional mentoring and residency programs to young women in New York City with dreams of joining our dynamic show business sector. I look forward to the many ways everyone gathered will further strengthen the five boroughs as we take bold steps to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, restore our city’s cultural vibrancy, and build a brighter, more inclusive, and prosperous future for all. On behalf of the City of New York, please accept my best wishes for a safe and uplifting event, and continued success.


Eric Adams

To close, I wanted to share a final anecdote. I was talking to Blythe Danner (I know, so crazy), and a woman walked up wearing a shirt that said “Bull City”. For anyone who has spent time in Chapel Hill, we know that to be what our neighbors to the east call themselves. I looked at her puzzled and said, “Bull City, is that like Bull City Durham?” Her face lit up. It was. I suppose there are not many North Carolinians to run into in New York City. We had a short conversation about where she grew up and went to school. I felt terribly sorry for her mom, who works at Duke (joking, of course). She was one of the new residents. I saw myself in her, a young woman starting her career with roots in North Carolina. I saw the real impact that this organization was having on her life. It gives me immense pride to be a part of the Rehearsal Club’s history, and I am so excited to watch its journey.

More About The Author

Lia Esposito is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a degree in Media and Journalism concentrating in Advertising and Public Relations with an English Minor. She is currently a social media strategist in the fintech industry.

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