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James Earl Jones in The Gin Game
Photograph: Courtesy Joan MarcusJames Earl Jones in The Gin Game

Broadway will soon have a James Earl Jones Theatre

The Cort Theatre will be renamed for the iconic Black stage and screen actor.

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

The Shubert Organization announced today that Broadway's Cort Theatre, which has been closed for renovations throughout the pandemic shutdown, will have a new name when it reopens its doors this summer: The James Earl Jones Theatre, named in honor of the great star of stage and screen.

Now 91 years old, Jones has appeared in 21 Broadway productions in a career that spans back 65 years. His first official Broadway role was at the Cort, in the 1958 FDR bioplay Sunrise at Campobello. He won Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play in 1969 for The Great White Hope and again in 1987 for Fences. (He also received a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2017.) Other credits include leading roles in Paul Robeson and revivals of OthelloThe Iceman Cometh and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

“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 Jones of the renaming. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”

In addition to his stage work, Jones has starred in films including The Great White HopeClaudine, Coming to AmericaField of Dreams and The Hunt for Red October, and has loaned his sonorous authority to The Lion King and multiple films in the Star Wars franchise, in which he provided the voice of Darth Vader. Jones received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2002 and an Honorary Academy Award in 2011; he has won two Emmys and a Grammy for his work in other media. His most recent Broadway appearance was in 2015, playing opposite Cicely Tyson in The Gin Game.

Built by West Coast impresario John Cort in 1912, and designed in 18th-century French style by architect Thomas Lamb, the Cort has been owned and operated by the Shuberts since 1927. It is scheduled to reopen this summer, when the formal rededication ceremony will be held. The James Earl Jones Theatre will be the second venue on the Great White Way to be named for a Black artist; the August Wilson Theatre, previously known as the Virginia, was renamed in 2005. 

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