St. Malachy's: The Actors' Chapel
Founded in 1902, St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church has been known as the Actors' Chapel since the 1920s, when Father Edward Leonard welcomed the growing theater community in the area by offering services during after-Broadway hours, as well as adding a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of actors, St. Genesius, to the church. St. Malachy's offers religious and community services, concerts, and theatrical performances to the Times Square area and the Theatre District.
Backstory and Context
St. Malachy's was the site for the wedding of Douglas Fairbanks and Joan Crawford, the baptism of Herb Shriner, and the funerals of Rudolph Valentino and Tennessee Williams. Attendees of the church have included George Cohan, Spencer Tracy, Perry Como, Irene Dunne, Florence Henderson, Elaine Stritch, Rosiland Russell, Danny Thomas, Bob and Dolores Hope, Ricardo Montalban, Fred Allen, Don Ameche, Cyril Ritchard, Pat O'Brien, and Jimmy Durante. Antonio Banderas attends Mass regularly at St. Malachy's. It is a Broadway tradition to light a candle at the Actors' Chapel for the success of a show on opening night.
During the 1960s, Madison Square Garden moved and many neighborhood night clubs whose entertainers attended St. Malachy's closed. The neighborhood deteriorated as drugs, prostitution, pornographic shops and theaters, and crime moved in. St. Malachy's parishioners moved away or feared to attend services in the neighborhood, and vandalism and theft occurred on a weekly basis. Father George W. Moore was assigned to St. Malachy's in 1976, and began an interfaith effort to improve the quality of life of the impoverished elderly in the neighborhood, working with local and community organizations. With the support of the Broadway Association, the League of American Theaters and Producers, Actor's Equity, the Schubert Foundation, and the Times Square Alliance (among others), programs were instituted for helping the elderly, poor, and homeless, and educational childcare services were provided for members of the acting community. These programs have grown and flourished under subsequent Fathers Richard Baker and Peter Colapietro.
In addition to its religious and community services, St.
Malachy's also offers musical concerts including organ recitals on the Paul Creston
Memorial Pipe Organ; instrumental, choral, opera, chamber, symphonic, and
Broadway performances; and classical and jazz performed by the Broadway Chamber
Players, comprised of Broadway pit musicians who are members of the parish. St.
Malachy's artistic director and resident playwright, Jo Ann Tedesco, began
theater activities at the Actors' Chapel in 2011. Three groups give
performances at St. Malachy's. One is The Saint Genesius Society, which
provides actors, directors, and writers with opportunities to try new materials,
acting techniques, and work on auditions or roles for free. The second is
Actors Chapel Presents, consisting of readings of original plays presented by
professional actors and directors, with Q&A sessions afterward. The third
is Broadway After Hours, where readings, musicals, and one-person shows are
presented at midnight, after the 11 pm Mass.
City Guide to Sacred Spaces – New York, NY: Manhattan and Brooklyn. Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed Web, 5/5/17. https://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/art/nyc_cityguide.pdf.
History. St. Malachy's - The Actors' Chapel. Accessed Web, 5/5/17. http://www.actorschapel.org/.