Sarah Lawrence College Celebrates Opening of New Open-Air Theatre


Sarah Lawrence College celebrated the official opening of The Remy Theatre, its newly constructed open-air theatre, on Wednesday evening, June 5. The festive event included remarks from Sarah Lawrence President Cristle Collins Judd and alumna Josie Merck, whose generous gift to the College made The Remy possible. The program concluded with a dance performance by the Moving Arts Collaborative, an improvisational dance group co-founded by alumna Jane Milliken-Roberts ’59.

This historic open-air marble theatre, originally designed and hand-constructed in the 1930s by architect-sculptor Horton O’Neil on his family's property, was a hub for the Cos Cob, Connecticut community and served as the heartbeat of the neighborhood for decades. The O’Neil family shared their passion for the arts with neighbors, hosting performances by groups and individuals like the Greenwich Academy and the José Limón Dance Company. A young Jane Fonda once did a reading there.

In 2017, after the O’Neil estate was sold, Josie Merck, a neighbor of the O’Neils, learned the theatre was set to be demolished by the property’s new owners. To locals like Merck, who consider the structure a work of art, the prospect of this magical place being razed was unthinkable. Merck and her late husband, James Stevenson, shared fond memories of watching costumed second-graders enacting Greek mythology on the stage. “Imagine the luck of living near such a place,” she reflected.

Thinking quickly, an idea sparked in her mind—could her alma mater be the perfect place for the theatre’s next act? Even more fitting, Sarah Lawrence is a common thread for the O’Neils—five members of the family have attended the College over the years.

Inspired, Merck made a generous donation to cover relocation, restoration, and reconstruction, and in early 2018 work began to remove, catalogue, and clean approximately 2,000 pieces of marble. The artisans at A. Ottavino Corporation then transported the stones 20 miles down the road for reassembly on campus.

Regarding the theatre, Sarah Lawrence President Cristle Collins Judd said, "This reclamation of the O'Neil amphitheater is adaptive reuse at its finest: preserving the past in a way that moves it into the future." Highlighting the value The Remy will add to the campus and community, she continued: “We are a small school with a long history of an outsized influence on the arts. This gift is more than a venue. It’s an opportunity and will be a hub for artistic communities, both at Sarah Lawrence and within the local community.” 

Merck is thrilled by the excitement with which the College community and local residents have welcomed the open-air theatre: “They appreciate this labor of love,” Merck says. “It’s exactly what I’d hoped for.”

The now-open space will serve as a public venue for outdoor theatre, literary readings, dance and musical performances, and social gatherings for years to come.

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.