The Shubert Organization, Inc., today announced that the 110-year-old Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street) will become the James Earl Jones Theatre, in recognition of Mr. Jones’s lifetime of immense contributions to Broadway and the entire artistic community.
Mr. Jones’s Broadway career began in 1957, and in 1958 Mr. Jones played his first role at the Cort Theatre in Sunrise at Campobello. Over the following six-and-a-half decades Mr. Jones rose to star in countless stage and screen productions (including twenty-one Broadway shows), becoming one of a small number of lifetime “EGOT” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winners. Mr. Jones’s Tony awards include Best Actor in a Play for The Great White Hope (1969) and Fences (1987), as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He has additionally won seven Drama Desk Awards and has been awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor.
“The Shubert Organization is so incredibly honored to put James—an icon in the theatre community, the Black community, and the American community—forever in Broadway’s lights,” said Robert E. Wankel, Shubert CEO and board chair. “That James deserves to have his name immortalized on Broadway is without question.”
“For me standing in this very building sixty-four years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today,” said Mr. Jones of Shubert’s decision to rename the Cort Theatre in his honor. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”
During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shubert has performed extensive renovation and construction work at the site of the Cort Theatre (including construction of a new, contemporary wing off of the building’s western face). The work is planned for completion in the summer of 2022, and when the building reopens for productions, Shubert will hold a formal dedication ceremony.
Mr. Jones has appeared in fourteen Broadway productions at Shubert theatres, including two at the Cort Theatre. Most recently Mr. Jones portrayed Weller Martin across from Cicely Tyson’s Fonsia Dorsey in the 2015 Broadway revival of Donald L. Coburn’s The Gin Game at Shubert’s John Golden Theatre.
The Cort Theatre opened in 1912, having been designed in the style of an Eighteenth-Century French palace by renowned theatre architect Thomas Lamb to house productions of theatre impresario John Cort. The building was sold to the Shubert brothers in 1927.