Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Unveils Design for Newest Theatre in Brooklyn's Growing Cultural District
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, BAM Local Development Corporation (BAM LDC) Chair Harvey Lichtenstein and Theatre for a New Audience Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz today unveiled the design of Theatre for a New Audience’s new theater, to be built in the emerging BAM Cultural District in Downtown Brooklyn. Designed through collaboration between Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy, the theater will be developed on City-owned property within the Cultural District. The $35.8 million, 299-seat flexible classical theater will receive $6.2 million in City Capital Budget support from the BAM LDC. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Councilmember Letitia James joined Mayor Bloomberg at the unveiling ceremony, which was held in the Mark Morris Dance Center on Lafayette Avenue directly across from where the new theater is to be built.
“Today, as we unveil the design of Theatre for a New Audience’s new home, we can look forward to a dynamic Shakespearean theater company opening its first-ever permanent home, designed by two of the finest architectural minds of our time,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This new theater will be an important anchor for the BAM Cultural District, which is an essential component of our effort to expand the City’s third largest business district in Downtown Brooklyn. The BAM LDC is a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating an exciting arts district with a variety of cultural uses and programming. The district will be marked by distinctive public spaces and innovative, world-class architecture. Supporting the arts and growing jobs in this vibrant sector of New York City’s economy is an important element of our five-borough economic development strategy to create opportunities and jobs for all New Yorkers.”
“It is a joy for me to see BAM complemented by an exciting and enterprising theater company in a spectacular new space,” said Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM Local Development Corporation Chairman. “This is a great addition to the BAM Cultural District.”
“Theatre for a New Audience’s new home will be more than a stage,” said Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director. “It will be a center devoted to the power of language in the theater. We will produce Shakespeare alongside classics and modern plays exploring common themes between past and present. We will offer discussions with artists, scholars and audiences exploring these plays. We will introduce thousands of young people through our education programs in the NYC Public Schools to Shakespeare and other great writing. We will reach out to other theater companies and when Theatre for New Audience is not in production, our performance spaces will be available for rental. We look forward to building an audience in Brooklyn and to attracting audiences who attended our shows in Manhattan.”
Today’s announcement is part of the Bloomberg Administration’s plans to transform Downtown Brooklyn into a 24-7, mixed-use district. Combined, the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, the Atlantic Yards development and the BAM Cultural District will result in the creation of 500,000 square feet of new space for the arts, almost 7 million square feet of office space, 5,500 mixed-income apartments, over 1 million square feet of retail, and a 19,000 seat arena.
The mission of Theatre for a New Audience is to develop and vitalize the performance and study of Shakespeare and the classics. The Theatre currently plays to an annual audience of approximately 23,000 and has an annual operating budget of $2.8 million. Despite being a leading classical theater, Theatre for a New Audience has never had its own home and must rent theaters subject to availability.
Theatre for a New Audience’s new home will be clad in large, patterned, rectangular stainless-steel shingles with angled planes of glass. Facing Flatbush Avenue, a large, four-story expanse of glass will allow passers-by to see the lobby and its two curvilinear levels and stairs. Portraits of Shakespeare created by Milton Glaser will be incorporated into a four-story mural facing out onto Flatbush Avenue.The main stage, a rectangular space which combines an Elizabethan courtyard theater with a flexible contemporary auditorium, is inspired by the Cottesloe Theatre of London’s Royal National Theatre. Responsive to the visions of different artists, the main stage with high ceilings and a trapped floor is both intimate and epic. The audience and stage can be arranged in different configurations such as thrust, in-the-round, proscenium or runway. This flexibility makes the new theater work well for Shakespeare, the classics and modern plays, offering a performing space unlike any other in the New York City area. The 50-seat rehearsal and performance space can be programmed simultaneously with the main space. In this studio, Theatre for a New Audience will present unusual classics, as well as new writing.
“This project has a unique combination of three unusual circumstances,” said Mr. Gehry. “I’ve always wanted to collaborate on a theater with Hugh Hardy because of his knowledge and great love for theater. I love Harvey Lichtenstein and am excited to contribute to the new BAM Cultural District. I found Jeffrey Horowitz’ brief for Theatre for a New Audience’s building compelling.”
“In order to achieve collaborative design, architects must have complementary points of view. Frank and I challenged each other to make a few simple moves, to design surfaces and interruptions that animate static rectangles, causing them to resonate,” said Mr. Hardy. “Our juxtapositions represent a dialogue about embellishing and opening up the box that houses Theatre for a New Audience’s theater. Who did what is less important than the easy exchange of ideas that make it all come together.”
“The stunning new home of the Theater for a New Audience will help ensure that Brooklyn remains New York’s creative capital for years to come,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “I commend BAM LDC and TFANA for recognizing that bringing theater to our kids is as important as bringing audiences to the theater. William Shakespeare, your new home away from home is at Flatbush upon Lafayette!”
“We are pleased that Theatre for a New Audience has joined the growing family of arts groups making its home here in Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “Theatre for a New Audience creates world-class theater and maintains as a core mission an inspiring commitment to community-based education. This is a combination that exemplifies the goals of community and arts-based planning.”
“Theatre for a New Audience’s new home will serve as a distinctive destination point with amenities that serve both artists and the community,” said Theodore C. Rogers, Chairman of Theatre for a New Audience. “This project also provides two world-class contemporary architects with an opportunity to interpret Theatre for a New Audience’s mission to stimulate a dialogue between past and present, performers and audience.” Rogers will chair Theatre for a New Audience’s Capital Campaign, which will raise $29.6 million for the project. Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal are honorary Campaign chairs.
“Creating a permanent home for Theatre for a New Audience is a milestone in the life of this superb company, and indeed a milestone in the life of the Cultural District,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin. “Both the company’s mission and this spectacular new facility will complement the arts organizations already here, further defining this Brooklyn neighborhood as world-class cultural destination and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural community.”
“To be truly successful, economic development must have a cultural component,” said Economic Development Corporation President Andrew M. Alper. “This exciting project, together with the other projects in the BAM Cultural District already underway or planned for the near future will do much to ensure the ultimate success of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.”
“With today’s unveiling, we have reached another important milestone in developing the Cultural District,” said BAM LDC President Jeanne Lutfy. “The South Site is now fully programmed with exciting design schemes for both the Theatre for a New Audience and Brooklyn Public Library projects. The BAM LDC can now move forward to design the site’s public plaza and underground parking, working very closely with both teams.”
In addition to Theatre for a New Audience’s facility, the other cultural use planned for the BAM Cultural District’s South Site is the 110,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art visual and performing arts branch of Brooklyn Public Library to be designed by noted Mexican architect Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos. The two buildings will be separated by a 38-foot wide public space to be developed by the BAM LDC. The public space, which will provide access to both buildings, will also be a venue for arts programming. The BAM LDC also will develop a 400-car underground parking facility on site.
Theatre for a New Audience will be the second project to move forward in the BAM Cultural District. In September 2003, the BAM LDC broke ground on its first renovation project, 80 Arts – The James E. Davis Arts Building. This 30,000-square-foot, $6 million project has transformed a long-vacant former State office building into attractive, affordable office space with shared amenities for smaller nonprofit arts organizations. That project is now complete and fully leased to 13 diverse arts organizations.
In December 2004, the LDC released a Request for Expressions of Interest to nonprofit cultural organizations to submit proposals for developing visual, performing, and media arts facilities on the Cultural District’s North Site. Responses are due on February 7th.