The Cort Theatre will be renamed the James Earl Jones Theatre, the Shubert Organization announced Wednesday.
This will be the second Broadway theater to be named after a Black artist, following the August Wilson Theatre, which took on the name in 2005. A veteran of the stage and screen, Jones has appeared in 21 Broadway shows and played one of his first roles at the Cort Theatre in 1958.
“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, chief executive of the Shubert Organization. “That James deserves to have his name immortalized on Broadway is without question.”
Last fall, Black Theatre United published a document called “A New Deal for Broadway,” in which major theater owners each agreed to rename at least one theater after a Black artist. However, the Shubert Organization had been planning to rename the Cort Theatre since before the document was created, according to a spokesperson.
“Although the decision to rename the theatre was not made in response to BTU’s New Deal, Shubert is pleased that its goals align with those of Black Theatre United,” the spokesperson said.
The Cort Theatre is currently under renovation, with work, including the addition of a five-story annex, expected to be completed this summer. Once the building reopens, the Shubert Organization will hold a dedication ceremony for Jones.
Jones began his Broadway career in 1957 and went on to receive Tony Awards for his performances in the 1969 play “The Great White Hope” and in the 1987 production of “Fences.” He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tony Awards in 2017. His most recent Broadway credit was for the 2015 revival of “The Gin Game.”
Outside of Broadway, Jones is known as the voice of Darth Vader in “Star Wars” and for his film credits such as “Coming to America,” “The Sandlot” and “The Lion King.” In addition to his Tony Awards, he has received two Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award and an honorary Academy Award, as well as the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor.
“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,” Jones said in the press release. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”
The Cort Theatre, which opened in 1912, was named for producer John Cort, whose shows filled the theater. The Shubert Organization purchased the theater in 1927.