Mary McCann: Acclaimed Actress and Artist Builder

BY Meatpacking BIDPUBLISHED 03.16.2023

Nestled on 16th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, lies Atlantic Theater Company’s 100 seat black box theater, Stage 2. At the helm of the theater school, sits Mary McCann, Atlantic Acting School Executive Director.

From Mary, “We’ve had an incredible journey in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District! We started renting our theater at 336 West 20th Street in 1990. As we grew and needed satellite space for our school, we rented an old building on 8th between 21st [and then we] had the unbelievable fortune of moving into 453 West 16th Street when the Manhattan Theater Club moved out and uptown.” Currently, Atlantic’s state of the art headquarters reside at 76 Ninth Avenue in the center of Meatpacking.

In her early twenties, McCann moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. While studying at NYU in 1984, guest teachers David Mamet and William H. Macy presented their new acting technique called Practical Aesthetics, and McCann and her classmates quickly fell in love with the analytical and thoughtful approach to understanding a script and acting the truth of a play. Upon graduating, Mamet and Macy encouraged McCann’s class of about 25 people to create their own work and start a theater company. Alas, The Atlantic Theater Company was born.

A force of creativity, Mary McCann was elected the Artistic Director of Atlantic and produced their first season right after graduating.

Atlantic Theater Company - 1984
The original Atlantic Theater Company ensemble, 1985

“At the time, our mission was simple: to produce great plays simply and truthfully utilizing an ensemble. Great plays seem subjective but at the time when we first began, we, knew we would approach all of the work utilizing Practical Aesthetics. Our mission is very similar today but we have a body of work that shows the kinds of plays and stories we believe are relevant today. We started producing in 1985 and had our first major success in 1987 when Lincoln Center picked up our production of ‘Boy’s Life’ by Howard Korder and produced it in the Mitzi Newhouse. We became an Equity company at that time and continued to produce in the Chelsea and Meatpacking area for two years before taking over the parish house space at 336 West 20th Street. Since that time we have produced many plays and garnered many awards including Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Obies, Lucille Lortels and more. We now produce five plays a year between our two spaces, two Atlantic for Kids productions, and approximately 13 student productions.” - Mary McCann

The Atlantic Theater Company is proud to offer the Meatpacking community new, relevant, and beautiful plays. As a founder, Mary is especially proud that great artists, writers, directors, actors, and designers consider the Atlantic a home and return over and over to work with them.

In addition to producing plays, the Atlantic also offers acting and arts education classes to kids of all ages, including after-school and summer programs that attract families from around the city. They have now expanded their programs to Title 1 schools in the neighborhood, making the arts accessible to all.




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