“The Women Writers of the Caffe Cino, 1958-1968” 

To Be Presented At Jefferson Market Library

-By Magie Dominic

“The Caffe Cino began before it actually began.  It began part way down the street. Outdoor golden, amber and rose colored lights, not neon, spilled across the sidewalk and made their way towards you, silently, like dancers, as you approached. Everything about the Caffe Cino began before it began.  Inside the room all time stopped. There was no time inside except magic time. “ This is how I describe the Caffe Cino in my book The Queen Of Peace Room.   

Caffé Cino, a tiny caffe theater at 31 Cornelia Street, in New York’s west village, was not originally conceived as a theatrical venue, but quickly became a venue for new playwrights to present their work, and often the first opportunity , to present their work. From it’s opening in 1958 until its closing in 1968 Joe Cino, owner of the Caffe Cino, produced the work of hundreds  of new writers.  Many of those same playwrights went on to win a multitude of awards, including Pulitzers, Tonys, Academy Awards and Obies. The Caffe Cino was the incubator. 

Experimental work that functioned outside of Broadway’s commercial interests and legal restrictions was presented there and came to be known as Off-Off Broadway. 

Among the many writers whose work was presented at the Caffe, fifteen women playwrights and poets presented their work there. Although their work spanned 1958-1968, the Caffe’s existence, their collective contribution to the Caffe Cino’s  history has gone basically unnoticed. On Thursday, March 16th, 6-7:30pm, at The Jefferson Market Library, 435 Avenue of the Americas, I will present the first program to focus on the work of these fifteen women writers. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the evening itself will be history making as it will be the first time that the story of these women writers will be brought together. 

Many people worked in a multiple of capacities, writer, director, actor, stage manager.  When people found the Caffe Cino, and I believe it was the same for most people, we discovered a world that no one knew had even existed. It was like discovering a new planet. It was that important culturally, and will pobably forever be, irreplaceable.  

“The Caffe Cino , brought theatre into the modern era, creating Off-Off Broadway, and forever altering the performing arts worldwide.” (quote from a plaque on the Caffe Cino building.) That tiny room at 31 Cornelia Street gave me my sense of the world. In 2019 The Caffe Cino was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Magie Dominic’s Caffe Cino archives are with Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts and with Fales Archives, NYU.  She is author of the memoirs The Queen of Peace Room and Street Angel and co-editor of Koutoukas:Remembered by His Friends. Her artwork has been on exhibit in numerous galleries including an exhibition at ClampArt in New York. She can be reached in care of the library, 

Leave a Reply