The Curtain playhouse was situated in Shoreditch, approximately 200 yards south of its famous neighbor, the Theater. It was built probably in 1577, a year after the Theater (1576), and it continued as a venue at least until 1625. Henry Laneman, owner of the Curtain and a yeoman of the Queen's guard, developed a financial relationship of some kind with the Theater in 1585 through its moneyman (John Brayne) and entrepreneur (James Burbage). The nature of that relationship hangs on a key word, "esore," which Laneman used in a deposition in 1592 in a suit at Chancery that pitted Brayne against Burbage. Laneman deposed that Brayne and Burbage approached him in 1585 with an offer to "pool and share the profits of their two playhouses for seven years" (paraphrase by Herbert Berry [Wickham 411]), and that in this deal "Burbage and Braynes [were] taking the Curten as an Esore to their playe house" (qtd. in Ingram 229). For lack of a better alternative, theater historians have interpreted the word "Esore" to mean "easer," but that modernization does not clarify how the Curtain was supposed to "provide relief from some strain or pressure on the Theater" (Ingram 231).
Stern observes that "the Curtain seems to have been built with no particular acting company in mind. Instead it was constructed as a hireable space, analogous to the various London inns, and all provincial playing places: spaces that anyone could acquire on a temporary basis for their shows" (80). The Chamberlain's men played there in 1598 with Romeo and Juliet in performance, and Queen Anne's men did so during 1603-7. Some company caused a stir there in May 1601 by performing a play whose characters were taken to be impersonations of "some gentlemen of good desert and quality that are yet alive"; the privy council ordered "them who made the play" to be examined and the play itself to be suppressed (Wickham 414).
The Curtain has a reputation as having been a second-rate venue (or worse) due both to its not having housed the most famous companies of its time for any length of time and to an absence of evidence on its lessees and amenities. It apparently had a better standing within the profession, for several players held shares in the house at their deaths: Thomas Pope (d. 1603) and John Underwood (d. 1624).
Ingram, William. The Business of Playing. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Stern, Tiffany. "'The Curtain is Yours'." in Locating the Queen's Men, 1583-1603. ed. Helen Ostovich, et. al. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2009. 77-96.
NB. This page is a work in progress; rather than attempting to represent a complete list of plays staged at the Curtain, this page will continually be updated as new entries are created for Curtain plays.