The Players is a private social club that draws its membership from the international theatre community, the related fields of film, television, music, and publishing, as well as respected patrons of the arts.
Members receive access to the Gramercy Park clubhouse and invitations to a variety of weekly events including dramatic readings and presentations, evenings of cabaret and jazz, film screenings, member dining events, or simply evenings at our famous Grill. Members also have keyed-access to the exclusive oasis that is Gramercy Park and can book the clubhouse’s many rooms for their personal needs.
The Players has many reciprocal clubs in New York City, London, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, as well as other locations around the world.
Step down to the entrance of No. 16 Gramercy Park South, beneath a covered stone balcony from which project immense wrought-iron, Renaissance-style, working gas lanterns, and enter the well-preserved 19th century world of Edwin Booth. Information on holding private events or location shoots in the clubhouse can be found here.
Down a few steps and through the glass doors is the Grill, where several generations of actors, artists, writers and prominent New Yorkers have gathered for conversation and refreshment. A focal point is the pool table where Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) often played pool with other founders of The Players. His pool cue is displayed over his portrait above the fireplace. The pool cues of Frank Morgan, Franklin Pierce Adams and Roland Winters frame the area along with the golf club of Oscar winner Jack Lemmon.
Artworks on every wall of the Grill include Marshall Goodman’s watercolor of The Players past presidents. Here, too, are Norman Rockwell’s portrait of Charles Coburn, John Barrymore’s watercolors of the sets of Hamlet, James Cagney’s drawing of Roland Winters, Thomas Nast’s Tammany tiger and Al Hirschfeld’s drawing of Edwin Booth (the only one he had ever done of an actor who wasn’t alive when he drew it.)
Near the Grill is the Sarah Bernhardt Room, the name Players gave to the tiny elevator still in use in which the great actress became entrapped for an hour or so one evening in 1911 while visiting the club as a guest.
THE GREAT HALL
The Great Hall is dominated by a 20-ton fireplace and mantel of white African slab marble designed by Stanford White to incorporate the The Players' seal with its masks of comedy and tragedy. Over the fireplace mantel hangs a painting by Robert Sully of Edwin Booth’s father, Junius Brutus Booth, in costume as Hamlet.
It is here where Players and their guests gather for receptions preceding formal dinners, special entertainment evenings and traditional black-tie events such as The Players Founders’ Night on New Year’s Eve, and Pipe Nights when great actors and others eminent in their professions are saluted for their work.
A portrait of The Players first president, Edwin Booth posing as Richelieu and of its second president Joseph Jefferson as Bob Acres in The Rivals, face each other at the entrance to the Dining Room. The iconic portrait of Booth as Hamlet dominates the wall opposite the fireplace at the head of the stairs.
Portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler of other former presidents include those of John Drew, Walter Hampden, Dennis King and Robert Lansing.
THE KINSTLER ROOM
To the right of the Great Hall is The Kinstler Room displaying paintings and drawings of many famous actors who were and are members of The Players. A reproduction of John Singer Sargent's full-length study of Edwin Booth is mounted above the fireplace and flanking it are portraits of Christopher Plummer as Prospero and Alfred Drake as Haj in Kismet. To the left of the windows at the front end of the room is the portrait of 18th-century American actor Thomas Abthorpe Cooper by Gilbert Stuart, whose most famous paintings are those of George Washington.
On the wall opposite the fireplace and between the windows are Kinstler's portraits of Jose Ferrer, James Cagney, Jason Robards and Katharine Hepburn.
The Players named the room as a tribute to Ray Kinstler, one of the foremost and most celebrated portrait artists of our time and a member of The Players. Many of Kinstler's renowned portraits and drawings adorn the walls on each floor throughout the clubhouse.
In the raised Alcove off the Kinstler Room are portraits of former club presidents John Drew by James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Lindsay by Gordon Stevenson and Roland Winters by Everett Raymond Kinstler. The death masks of eminent actors and playwrights are displayed, as is a bronze bust of Jose Ferrer and the helmet Walter Hampden wore as Cyrano.
Glass doors open off the alcove onto the balcony from which can be viewed the expanse of Gramercy Park, a private park at the center of which since 1918 has stood a full-length bronze statue of Edwin Booth as Hamlet atop a granite pedestal.
THE DINING ROOM
To the left of the Great Hall, sliding oak doors lead into the original Dining Room, where major events of The Players take place. At the far end of the room is an informal stage used frequently for performances and play readings.
Facing the walls of the Dining Room are fireplaces framed in blue and white Delft tiles, and overhead hangs a chandelier made from a cluster of stag horns designed by Stanford White. On the right and left walls are stained glass theater windows, one depicting David Garrick as Richard III and the other of Richard Mansfield in the same role. Both are original leaded windows from the 1901 Garrick Theatre in Philadelphia.
A large painting of actress Helen Hayes hangs on the right wall. In 1989 she was the first woman elected to the membership of The Players.
Another painting in the Dining Room depicts former president Walter Hampden as Cyrano. He served for 27 years, the longest term of any president and was a major contributor to the Library.
Today officially part of The Players Foundation for Theatre Education, the Library was originally two large rooms on the second floor, each with its own fireplace and mantel of red African marble. Over one mantle is a quotation from The Tempest: "My library was Dukedom large enough for me." Over the other is a quotation from Titus Andronicus: "Take choice of all my library."
The growing collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, prompt books, notebooks and more than 50,000 playbills began with Booth's personal library. In 1957 the Library was charted by the State of New York as an educational institution and two years later it opened its doors for the first time to qualified researchers and students of the theatre. Today the Library is considered one of the finest repositories of theatre references, art and memorabilia of its kind.
THE CARD ROOM
At the far end of the second floor hallway is the room used for private functions and committee meetings. It displays the poker table said to have been used by Mark Twain, portraits of James Cagney and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and a photograph of three Cyranos, Walter Hampden, Jose Ferrer and Jimmy Durante.
THE BOOTH ROOM
Called by Booth his “nest among the treetops of Gramercy Park,” the suite, a parlor and bedroom, where he lived his final five years after the opening of The Players. The parlor and bedroom have been left furnished as they were when he died in 1893 at age 59, just five months before his 60th birthday. Among the artifacts are several of the pipes and cigars he loved so much. The gasolier hanging over the dining table in the parlor still works, and is occasionally lit.
Here still are many of Booth’s personal treasures, reminders of his great theatrical career and of his family tragedies. On the wall in the far corner of the parlor near a window is a portrait of his first wife and great love, the beautiful actress Mary Devlin, who died so young after only three years of marriage. Beneath her portrait is a bookcase, atop which rests the skull of Yorick that Booth saluted hundreds of times while playing Hamlet. The skull is said to be that of a horse thief who asked just before being hanged that his skull be given to Booth’s father, whom he admired.
Between the parlor windows, a bust of Shakespeare looks down over Booth’s roll-top desk and over it is a rubbing of the legend under Shakespeare’s tomb at Stratford. On the table are Booth’s cigar case, a bronze casting of his daughter Edwina’s hand in his, and the book of poetry by William Winter open to the page he was reading before he died.
In the bedroom is the actor’s brass bed with its faded silk coverlet and its canopy of yellow satin, and beside it rests his slippers. Near the window is his Queen-Anne-style ebony wood chaise and against another wall is a Chippendale bureau. On the wall behind the chaise is a shadow-box tribute to Booth.
The artifacts and ephemera in The Booth Room memorialize and celebrate his life in theater.