‘Mrs. Maisel’ star pushes to revive boarding house for young actresses

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A safe haven for actresses that went out of fashion decades ago is undergoing a revival in the #MeToo era.

The Rehearsal Club, a Midtown meeting place set up in 1913 for young women who worked in the theater, also provided cheap housing and meals.

Men could visit, but they were not allowed beyond the first floor of the two brownstones on West 53rd Street that over the years became home to struggling actresses including Helen Hayes, Carol Burnett, Blythe Danner and Kim Cattrall.

Modal TriggerCynthia Darlow in a scene from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Cynthia Darlow in a scene from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”Amazon
“The Rehearsal Club saved our lives,” said Cynthia Darlow, 69, an actress who lived there when she arrived from Virginia in 1973 to look for work on Broadway.

At the club, women worked together to prepare for auditions and often the more established actresses donated their gowns for theatrical openings.

“It was a real sisterhood,” said Darlow, who currently appears in Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as Joel Maisel’s substitute secretary, Mrs. Moskowitz.

“In the era of #MeToo, we really need a place where young women in theater can feel safe again.” she told The Post.

Darlow and a group of other former residents are collaborating on a book and documentary about their experience and setting up a nonprofit to raise funds — some derived from profits from the book — for a similar women-only boarding house in the Theater District.

Danner has already agreed to write the book’s foreword, and Burnett said she would contribute, Darlow told The Post.

Born in Detroit and raised in Virginia, Darlow arrived in the city on a Greyhound bus with $25 in her pocket. She headed straight to the Rehearsal Club, where two of her friends from acting school were living.

The club charged $60 a week for room and board, and prospective tenants needed to pass an audition and provide two letters of reference from entertainment professionals.

Darlow handed the house manager $10 and rented a cot in a room she shared with two other women until she was able to pay full rent after she found an acting job on Broadway.

“I’ll never forget the housemother who answered the door on my first day,” recalled Darlow. “She had scotch tape on the space between her eyebrows! I wasn’t sure if the tape was there to flatten her bangs or her frown lines.”

Darlow was a member of the original Broadway production of “Grease,” playing one of the Pink Ladies. She said the stage manager rationed bubble gum during the show’s eight-year Broadway run because the Pink Ladies kept plastering chewed wads to the back of set pieces.

“It was practically holding the set together,” said Darlow. “So we each got one piece per show after that.”

Originally started by Jean “Daisy” Greer, a daughter of the city’s Episcopal bishop, and church deaconess Jane Hall, the Rehearsal Club set out to help “lonely girls” at its first location, on West 46th Street, in the heart of the Theater District. It allowed them to have a “resting place” between auditions and later provided housing.

In the 1920s, when demand for housing increased, the club leased two brownstones on West 53rd Street for $1 a year from philanthropist John D. Rockefeller.

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