Circle in the Square

Circle in the Square

159 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012


The Circle in the Square, along with Cherry Lane Theatre, helped spearhead the Off-Broadway theater movement.


WBAI’s Bob Fass Melds Radio and Street Theater


WBAI’s Bob Fass was another Yippie collaborator, and he used independent radio to broadcast his social and political critiques. Fass’s free-form radio program, which aired from midnight to the early morning, was a prelude to the way many people use social media networks today. “It served a community purpose,” Paul Krassner recalled. “If there was some kind of event, people would call in to the radio station. They were like citizen journalists describing what was happening right then and there.” For example, Fass used his WBAI show to organize listeners after a citywide sanitation worker strike left piles of trash on the streets. “The first thing they did was clean up wealthier streets like Park Avenue, naturally,” Fass said, “so we organized this ‘Sweep-In’—where people came from all over to clean a block on the Lower East Side.” Another time, Fass used his radio show to call for a “Fly-In” at JFK airport that drew thousands of people on one of the coldest nights of the year. “They sang and danced and gave out flowers and welcomed people as they were getting off the plane,” Fass said. “There was nothing being sold, nothing but goodwill.” These street theater actions were partially rooted in Fass’s own theater background. He appeared in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and performed in other Off-Broadway shows at the Circle in the Square and Cherry Lane Theatre during the late 1950s and early 1960s. “When I was in theater, I hung out with the people who were part of the art scene, and I would go to painters’ bars,” Fass recalled. “Actors’ bars kind of bored me, but the painters’ bars, there was excitement. I would also hang out in places like the Figaro. The coffeehouse scene and the music scene was beginning to erupt.”

From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore