How does Elysabeth Kleinhans afford this artistic license? Simple: Her family had long owned the Hotel Delmonico (Kleinhans acted as managing partner of the property for many years). The story goes that Kleinhans's mother, real estate mogul Sarah Korein, acquired a number of New York City properties during the Great Depression for pennies on the dollar. Most of that property was sold and traded up over the years. In 1981, the Kleinhans family bought the Hotel Delmonico - which, in 2002, was purchased for $115 million by Donald Trump. Then Kleinhans did something that just doesn't happen in Midtown Manhattan anymore: She built a three-stage theater complex from scratch (199 seats in the largest theater, 50 to 70 in the smallest).

Could she possibly make money doing this? Don't be silly. Theatrical "angels" don't make money; they spend it supporting the art that matters to them. "We have an endowment that funds the theater. It is a nonprofit, which, by definition, means we are losing money," says Kleinhans.

Kleinhans's enthusiasm for theater dates back to 1995: "I was dating an actor, and, well, it was a tragic mistake," she says with a laugh. "It changed my whole life. I just got more and more involved in theater.

"We are helping artists put on shows that might get no attention," says Kleinhans, who is particularly proud that her theater is home to the Brits Off Broadway, an annual multiweek festival of new British theater, showcasing numerous cutting-edge plays. "These are works that would not get a showing in the U.S. without us."

Although she has been actively involved in putting on theater for only five years, Kleinhans, 65, already has made a name for herself and for 59E59. "What I have learned is that if you are nice to people in theater, they want to work with you, and they want to keep coming back," she says. "This business is all relationships."

Other marquee names: Jim Simpson, the Flea Theater; Robert Rosenberg, president of the New Group