The Playgoer: More Brit Envy

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

More Brit Envy

The official computer rendering of what the Royal Shakespeare Co. plans to build inside NYC's Park Avenue Armory.

One has to admit, the sheer physical challenge described in Playbill is quite impressive:
[A] full-scale replica of the company's intimate thrust stage Courtyard Theatre will be constructed to house the plays. The 930-seat theatre, which will take two weeks to construct, is being specifically designed as a freestanding structure to fit within the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall.
And before seeing this image, I wasn't clear exactly which of the RSC's spaces was being recreated.  A question made even trickier by the fact that the company is still in the midst of a massive renovation (or "transformation" as they're calling it), after which they'll emerge with basically three brand new spaces.  At first the picture made me think of their lovely "Swan" theatre, (the "middle" space of the original three) modeled on a Globe-style Elizabethan playhouse.  But turns out the Swan is no more!  Instead, what will go up in the armory is a replica of their temporary space, the "Courtyard"--also Globe-like.  Meanwhile, the Courtyard is itself serving as the prototype for the new mainstage that will replace the old one--which will involve quite a significant change from a rather cold big proscenium house to a more intimate thrust still seating 1030 but "reducing the distance from the furthest seat to the stage from 27 to 15 metres." (Think The Globe, Supersized.)

Oh, and they're also building a new on-site nursery for the company members' children.  But, of course, they already had one, this is just bigger and better.

Aside from the construction aspects, the tour is huge because, Playbill reports, it involves bringing in about 70 people!  44 of them are actors, and 23 musicians

Can you imagine an American theatre company employing full time even half that many musicians?

Ah what one can do with permanent public subsidies...


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I fear tours like this will reduce even further the chances of adequate subsidy for US theatre companies. With the kind of specialization that global capitalism induces, England provides Shakespeare as Mexico does broccoli.

RLewis said...

I'm jealous, but this is an incredible "site-specific" opportunity that's lost. The space could have looked totally different from a "theater" in a way that would allow audiences to question concepts of space, architecture, venue, and the patron's relationship to the actors & art. But instead they're just going to put another theater inside of an historic structure. sad.