1,2,3,7,S,A,C,E,N,R,Q,W to 42nd St./Times square
The Helen Hayes Theater was designed by the architect Harry Creighton Ingalls of the firm Ingalls & Hoffman, and built by Winthrop Ames. When it first opened, it was known as the Little Theatre, owing both to the theatre's small size (with a seating capacity of only 300), and also because the theatre's goal was to create small, intimate productions. The theatre in fact gave birth to what became known as the Little Theatre Movement in the early twentieth century.
The theatre opened on March 12, 1912 with John Galsworthy's play The Pigeon. In the 1920s, Herbert J. Krapp redesigned the theatre to increase its seating capacity to 590 and to improve its acoustics. In 1931 the building was sold to the New York Times and converted into a conference hall named New York Times Hall.
CBS used the theatre as a radio studio for a time, but it was converted to television by ABC in 1958 and renamed the Little Theatre. Dick Clark's Saturday night The Dick Clark Show originated there from February 1958 through September 1961. During this time ABC also broadcast the daytime show Who Do You Trust? with Johnny Carson from the theatre. It was briefly re-named the Winthrop Ames Theatre in 1964. From 1965 through 1983 it was again the Little Theatre. During the early part of that period, Westinghouse Broadcasting taped the popular syndicated Merv Griffin Show there and later, The David Frost Show. The 1969-70 season of the game show Beat the Clock hosted by Jack Narz was also taped there.
The theatre was finally renamed for Helen Hayes in 1983 when the renowned actress' existing namesake theatre located on West 46th Street was demolished, along with the Morosco Theatre and the Bijou Theatre, in order to construct the New York Marriott Marquis. Hayes, known as the "First Lady of the American Theater," was still living at the time, and because of the unusual and embarrassing nature of her having outlived her monument, it was decided to rechristen the Little Theatre in her honor.
Watch a video about the Helen Hayes Theater at Spotlightonbroadway.com