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shear madness logo

Whodunit Housed in Historic Buildings

Boston's Shear Madness takes place in the 199-seat cabaret-style Stage II theatre in the Charles Playhouse, the Theatre District's oldest playhouse. It was built in 1839 as the Fifth Universalist Church by renowned architect Asher Benjamin. In 1864 it became the first synagogue in Boston before its transformation during Prohibition into a speakeasy called The Lido Venice. In the 1940s the upstairs was converted into a nightclub, Storyland, while downstairs reverberated with hot jazz by artists such as Fats Waller and Earl Fatha Hines. The playhouse quickly moved to the forefront of America's regional theatre movement, premiering works by Brecht, O'Neill, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams and featuring performances by many stars-to-be including Al Pacino, Jill Clayburgh and Jane Alexander. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Shear Madness is such an integral part of Boston that the Mayor renamed Warrenton Street "Shear Madness Alley."

The 399-seat Theatre Lab in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to D.C.'s Shear Madness. When the Kennedy Center opened in 1971, Washington began to draw the best of concerts, dance, musicals, opera, and drama to its five theatres. President Eisenhower proposed the idea for a national cultural center in 1958. John F. Kennedy had also strongly supported the concept, and after his assassination the center was dedicated to him as a living memorial. Designed by Edward Durell Stone, the Kennedy Center now presents more performing arts than any other institution in the United States.