Brooklyn’s budding cultural district will soon raise the curtain on a new classic theater. Just Last Friday, construction started on the Theater for a New Audience, a Hugh Hardy designed flexible theater created specifically for the performance of Shakespeare and classic drama. Cloaked in a dramatic black box exterior, the LEED Silver-seeking building will seat nearly 300 and be surrounded by a gorgeous public arts plaza, creating a complete cultural experience.
Design work began on the building, which is the first home for the Theater for a New Audience, several years ago, but, as with many projects in the BAM Cultural District, changes to the location and design team delayed the project. Originally, Frank Gehry was designing the building, but he got the boot in 2008, leaving the theater in the hands of collaborator Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. The theater will be located on Ashland Place between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street in Fort Greene.
Hardy designed a simple yet elegant and dramatic space for the Theater that supports the production of Shakespeare and other classics. The 27,500 square foot building will rise from the ground, its black box shape angling toward the sky. An open glass facade will be a giant window into the theater, flooding the four-story lobby with daylight. There will be a cafe and book kiosk adjacent to the lobby, which opens into the public arts plaza designed by landscape architect Ken Smith. The whole structure will use 35 percent less water and 25 percent less energy than a traditionally built theater.
The main theater will seat 299 guests in a two-tier design that wraps around the orchestra, bringing the audience closer to the stage. Unlike a single plane of seating, the double-decker design allows for a more intimate viewing experience. The main stage will be 35 feet tall, twice the height of a typical off-Broadway theater, and a space behind the stage can be opened up to increase the depth. When closed, the space functions as a studio or rehearsal area. Stage lighting will be almost 100 percent lit by LEDs, which is a major energy upgrade from your typical highly inefficient stage lighting.
Theater for a New Audience will christen its new home in the spring of 2013 with a performance directed by none other than Julie Taymor (of Spiderman infamy). The group anticipates bringing more than 25,000 new audience members to the neighborhood. And to that we say Bravo!