Signature Theatre Shows Off Models for Its New Three-Venue NYC Home

News   Signature Theatre Shows Off Models for Its New Three-Venue NYC Home
Signature Theatre Company unveiled the models for the Signature Center, a new permanent Manhattan home for the company, currently under construction as part of Related Companies' mixed-use development on 42nd Street and 10th Avenue.

Signature Center is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry and will open in 2012.

Details of the resident Equity troupe's spaces within the complex were also revealed.

"Frank Gehry's stunning designs for the new Signature Center are the perfect embodiment of the theatre's mission and will enable the company to grow and expand our existing programs in exciting new directions," Signature artistic director Jim Houghton stated. "We're honored to be working with Frank Gehry and his team and cannot imagine a more vibrant permanent home for our company. We hope the Signature Center will be a dynamic addition both to the theatre community and the city of New York."

Frank Gehry said in a statement, "Our intent was to fashion a space that captures the rough-and-ready and experimental spirit of the actors and playwrights that will inhabit it. The drive for me was to create an intimacy between the performer and the audience, and to create a space that encourages the innovation that Signature is known for. We have worked very hard to foster this in the three theatres, while allowing them each to have their own identity. This is a very special project created from very special circumstances and I think is in the right spirit for the company."

The 74,000-square-foot space comprises three theatres, two rehearsal studios and "a dynamic, shared lobby that features a café and bookstore, encouraging the intermingling of artists, audiences, and the community." The Signature Center will feature three unique programs: The Master Playwrights Residency, which is the continuation of Signature's core Playwright-in-Residence program that explores the works of playwrights with major bodies of work; the Legacy Program, which celebrates the lifetime achievements of the artists who have previously worked at Signature, with premiere and signature works; and the introduction of the Emerging Playwrights Residency, which will feature early and mid-career playwrights and guarantee them three full productions over the course of a four-year residency, offering an extended artistic home where they will build a body of work.

Gehry Architects New York describes the Signature Center's exterior and interior and the three new theatre spaces below.

The End Stage
"The End Stage is the largest of the three theatres in the Center with 299 seats. It is the most similar to the Peter Norton Space, the company's current home. A straight rake of seating rises from the stage edge and is contained within plywood walls that give the space a subtle architectural expression. The shaped panels of the walls will be painted to fade to black as they approach the stage, creating a transition from the architectural space of the room to the scenic space of the play. A large doorway will connect this theatre to the lobby. The closing of this door will indicate that the play is about to begin."

The Courtyard
"The Courtyard is a 199-seat flexible theatre. The courtyard form, which has a long history in the development of theatre, will give this space distinction from the other two theatres. This theatre can be used in an endstage format, as a modified thrust stage, a runway center stage configuration, or in a flat floor format for experimental work. Each of these configurations has a second level gallery that seats patrons in a single line overlooking the stage. This small theatre will place patrons in a very intimate relationship with the actors."

The Jewel Box
"The Jewel Box is the most intimate of the three theatres and has 199 seats. The intent of this space is to pull the patrons as close as possible to the stage, creating a compression that will allow for an intense and intimate theatre experience. This theatre has a single balcony and is reminiscent of a tiny opera house. This room has the most articulated architectural expression with shaped plywood panels framing the proscenium, wrapping around the balcony front and creating a ceiling under the lighting bridges above the house. These panels will be stained a deep chocolate brown that will disappear as the house is faded to black."

"The Signature Center is entered from the sidewalk on 42nd Street under a glass canopy that will protect patrons from the elements and identify the Center with signage. This sculptural design element will give the Center a strong presence and sense of arrival. The street level lobby is compact and visually dominated by a plywood clad stairway that will lead to a gracious upper lobby and then to the three theatres. The box office is set within the form of the stairway at the street level. Large-scale graphics on the lobby walls will communicate Signature's mission and history, as well as feature images and testimony of Signature's current Playwrights-in-Residence and other participating artists."

In addition to the theatres, the building on 42nd Street will house all back of house and support functions as well as an administrative wing housing Signature's day-to-day operations.

Signature is currently running the critically acclaimed production of The Orphans' Home Cycle by Horton Foote, a nine hour, three-part theatrical event and the company's most ambitious programming to date (22 actors, multiple set locations). Signature will celebrate its 20th anniversary in the 2010-11 season by presenting works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, including the first New York revival of Angels in America.


The 299-seat "End Stage"
The 299-seat "End Stage"
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