Lincoln Center Theater Gets Its Third Theatre at Long Last

By Robert Simonson
16 May 2012

Rendering of the theatre interior

In envisioning the theatre, Bishop and company had a unique collaborator in Hardy, who can accurately be described as the preeminent theatre architect of the last  30 years. (Among his projects have been the restoration of the New Victory and New Amsterdam theatres, and several projects for the Brooklyn Academy of Music.) Hardy was present in 1965 when the Beaumont, the first theatre at LCT, was constructed, acting as a conduit between architect Eero Saarinen, who created the building, and Jo Mielziner, who designed the theatre. He thus furnished LCT with a human throughline in the life of the building.

"He worked on the original building," said Bishop. "When we took Hugh to all these meetings with the Landmarks Commission, once he started to speak, there was no contradicting him. He had been there from the beginning. He was only going to honor the architecture."

"Eero believed in progress," said Hardy. "He believed the world was inevitably moving forward toward better and better everything. It was an article of faith. And that the theatre was evolving as well. He was smitten by what Tyrone Guthrie had done in bringing a thrust stage to a fully formed theatre. He was convinced that in the evolution of theatre, the proscenium was the past. Jo, meanwhile, was a consummate artist of Broadway, in the realm of the proscenium. The extraordinary results produced a building like no other in New York."

Hardy was adamant that the Tow not mirror the Beaumont and the Newhouse by being another thrust stage. "We're not in the thrust stage business," he said.

The Tow's 112 red seats directly face the stage, which, though intimate in feel, is quite wide and high, matching the size of one of the smaller Broadway stage. The stage is adaptable to accept both decking and a proscenium stage.

The outer face of the Tow is as striking as the interior. The long glassed-in lobby opens out onto a 1,885-square foot wooden deck, which looks over the Lincoln Center plaza and the surrounding buildings. There is an expanse of green landscaping to the left and just below the deck, and a viewfinder—the sort you might find at the top of the Empire State Building. (No quarters are necessary to make it work.)

In addition, there is a spacious rehearsal room, dressing room and a green room. The Tow was built at a cost of $42 million.

If you don't look up, you might not notice the Tow from the plaza. But as night falls, it will make itself known, as the building will fill with light, highlighting the exterior screen. According to Hardy, it will appear to float above the roof.