Theatre for a New Audience Begins a New Era With Opening of Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn

By Stuart Miller
24 Oct 2013

Adding to the flexibility is the Theodore Rogers Room, named for the theatre's longtime board chair. It's a rehearsal studio or 50-seat performance space but can also be used to add 100 feet of extra depth to the main stage. It sits directly across from it, but behind soundproofed doors.

Some of what makes the building special will never be seen by the audiences, whether it's nice showers for the dressing rooms — "I was an actor once," Horowitz said, "so my standard is whether I'd like to work here" — or the window in the Theodore Rogers room that lifts out so that anything for the stage that can't fit into the elevator can be raised and brought in that way. (The side street elevator and the window will eliminate countless headaches, Horowitz said, for a theatre that has grown used to struggling to load in at the Duke on 42nd Street, an upstairs space right in the heart of Times Square.)

Horowitz is most excited about the trap room below the stage. There he reveals a series of three-by-six panels that can be removed, meaning one small portion of the stage can be removed for a grave for Ophelia in Hamlet or a larger segment can be taken out for an orchestra pit or the entire stage can be opened up. Each panel is 80 pounds, so two people can move one fairly easily, and everything in the room below can be raised or lowered with simple mechanics.

This concept was taken from the Cottesloe as well. Horowitz said no theatres in New York outside of Broadway houses and Playwrights Horizons can boast of such flexibility. "This was a given from the beginning — we had to have this," he said, explaining that it was important that "we build possibility into the room. There is no one way to do Shakespeare."

The opening of TFANA's home has been such a long time coming that Horowitz said when he first showed the space off to invited guests, "I got light-headed and could not find the words to say how I feel."

While overseeing nearly every facet of the process was draining, Horowitz said, "my next task is much harder. As Peter Brook said, it's not enough just to have the theatre I have make sure the audiences leave the room changed in some way."