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 Post subject: How to Build A Theater
PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2001 6:06 pm 
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Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
I have this dumb question...so what else is new? Image<P>Why is it people have so much trouble building theaters? I am not talking about the funding or even finding a site - but the actual knowing how to build a theater. We have been doing this for a long, long time. And yet, one sees constant repetitions of the same mistakes over and over again.<P>One would assume when one plans a theater (I am talking about a mid to full size performing arts theater) one realizes it will be used for many purposes - especially dance, opera, concert/symphony, musical theater, etc. <P>So, why oh why are theaters built that can't accommodate the basic necessities? <P>When San Diego built its Civic Theater the floor was too hard for dance and was blackballed by touring companies - until the stage floor was finally torn up and completely re done, took years and mucho dollars.<P>The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles has terrible sight lines. Dancers are cut off at the knees for about the first 25-30 rows.<P>Academy of Music, Philadelphia, has weight bearing posts going right through (yes, you read that correctly) some of the seats.<P>East County Performing Arts Center, El Cajon, California (just east of San Diego) has basically no wings.<P>ABT will be performing "Giselle" in Zellerbach Hall (read it in a newspaper article) because the stage is not deep enough to accommodate a full set like Swan Lake.<P>California Center for the Arts, Escondido, dancers cut off at the ankles until about row M, orchestra section.<P>This doesn't even begin to deal with the accoustics, the production facilities, backstage accommodations for the performers, etc.<P>I don't buy the argument that the theaters were built years ago and are "old". The theaters I have mentioned range in age from fairly old to almost brand new. Why oh why can't we get it right?<P>How many theaters do you know with problems like these? <P>


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 Post subject: Re: How to Build A Theater
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2001 3:02 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Why is it people have so much trouble building theaters?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>In short, in most cases, it's because architects don't listen to theatre people. I cannot tell you how many architects have arrogantly said to me, "I know what I'm doing; I've built hundreds of theatres," to which I always want to reply, "Yes, but you never go back to see what worked and what didn't; you've built hundreds of <I>bad</I> theatres."<P>Sometimes, they actually listen to theatre people, but the folks they consult are directors and administrators -- the people who know the <I>least</I> about what needs to go into a theatre.<P>Other times, they employ theatre consultants (actually, they almost always employ theatre consultants). There are some very good consultants out there, and there are some very bad ones -- and sometimes the ones with the best credentials and the biggest reputations are among the worst (I dealt with one once whom I had to stop from doing things that would have been physically dangerous to the crew and performers).<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>ld assume when one plans a theater (I am talking about a mid to full size performing arts theater) one realizes it will be used for many purposes - especially dance, opera, concert/symphony, musical theater, etc.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Well, that's actually part of the problem. The springiness needed in a floor that's used for dance does not allow for the structural strength needed to support large opera sets. The reverberation needed for orchestral music tends to muddy the voices of live actors. Symphonies benefit from long, narrow halls, whereas theatre and dance benefit from shorter, wider houses.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>East County Performing Arts Center, El Cajon, California (just east of San Diego) has basically no wings.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Neither does the NY State Theater (at least on SR), and I find that particularly puzzling since it is, as we all know, "The House That Mr. B. Built"<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>l be performing "Giselle" in Zellerbach Hall (read it in a newspaper article) because the stage is not deep enough to accommodate a full set like Swan Lake.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Sometimes it's just simple economics. Real estate is expensive, and theatres are notoriously inefficient uses of space.<P>Sometimes it's a matter of the designers not truly understanding the purpose of the building. I've had electrical engineers try to put in flourescent lighting and I've had mechanical engineers try to block lighting positions with air conditioning ducts.<P>The solution: Single-purpose facilities with architects and engineers who listen to the people who actually use the space, and who come back afterwards to see how it all worked out.<P><BR>------------------<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer<BR>"Shang-a-lang, feel the <I>sturm und drang</I> in the air!"<BR>Online portfolio: <A HREF="http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg" TARGET=_blank>http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg</A><p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited September 05, 2001).]

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Dance Lighting Design
http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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 Post subject: Re: How to Build A Theater
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2001 5:11 am 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>: Single-purpose facilities with architects and engineers who listen to the people who actually use the space, and who come back afterwards to see how it all worked out.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>This sounds like good advice for people who design kitchens, too. I remember a fair number of people telling me what I wanted in my ******* design - luckily I ignored them all.<P>Seriously, that's a terrific answer Salzberg (but I expected no less from you).<P>Building a specific design for a specific purpose is, of course, ideal. But generally speaking, most cities can't afford several theaters. <P>Some of the flaws seem fairly easily avoidable - like the first 25 rows of seats cutting off the dancer's feet - or no wing space. Am I just a simplistic silly old woman? <P>Are there examples of theaters that do manage to serve more than a single purpose?


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 Post subject: Re: How to Build A Theater
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2001 5:43 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
The Brown Theatre in Houston's Wortham Theatre Center serves the ballet and the opera. They solved the argument of floor strength versus flexibility by building it for strength, with a full-stage sprung floor that rolls on from US and sinks down 18" on an elevator, to make it flush with the rest of the floor,<P>It seems to work OK -- now. When the building first opened, it seems that the engineers had neglected to compensate for expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature and humidity. As I said, it works now -- one million dollars later.<P>I know of no venue that serves symphony and either opera or ballet to the satisfaction of all parties. The needs are too different and too incompatible.<P>I can think of no need that would require inappropriately high stages such as you describe; it's just sloppy/bad design, I think.<p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited September 05, 2001).]

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Dance Lighting Design
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 Post subject: Re: How to Build A Theater
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2001 5:50 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
There are enough intricacies that go into a normal building, let alone specialty construction. The expansion and contraction problem that Salzberg mentioned above is one of many that designers have to plan for but don't always do well. You can't control nature. The best you can do is allow for it.<P>With all the little details involved, I believe the design of theaters should be performed by designers (developers, architects, engineers and contractors) who specialize in it.


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