July 1, 2017
The Department of Design and Construction is proud to have contributed to the renovations of the renowned and historic theatres across New York City. These transformative renovations, from creating additional seating and dressing rooms to lighting and infrastructure, allow these venues to continue to entertain local audiences for decades to come.
The Billie Holiday Theatre, founded in 1972, hosts performances as well as local events, serving approximately 15,000 people annually. Eponymously named for the famous American jazz singer, its stage has featured prominent African American and Caribbean actors and entertainers including Smokey Robinson and Samuel L. Jackson.
The reconstruction of the theatre was vast: it extended backstage and to the basement, adding a green room and new dressing rooms. Further improvements were made to the theatre’s infrastructure, including new boilers and several new air conditioning units that work with the building’s existing geothermal system to use the earth’s natural cooling powers to reduce energy consumption and make the theatre more environmentally sustainable. A new connection was also installed to the City water main in the street for the advanced standalone fire suppression system.
"The Billie Holiday Theatre has been a platform that has presented world-class theatre for the community of Brooklyn and beyond for 45 years," said Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director of the Billie Holiday Theatre. "Working with the DDC team, a team that has brought extraordinary enthusiasm and expertise to this project, has been deeply gratifying. The renovation of this historic destination, a destination formerly led by theatre pioneer Marjorie Moon for 42 years, gives us a new opportunity to build on that legacy and also present dance and music concerts, large talks, and film screenings right here in the epicenter of Black culture in the U.S."
For over two decades, the Irish Repertory Theatre has featured work of the Irish and Irish-American writers. Its renovations included an additional 250-square-feet of total space—widening the stage, backstage, and storage areas. The venue can now seat 148, ten more than the previous capacity. A new 40-seat balcony replaced the theatre’s old side seating section, providing unobstructed views of the stage. The height of the performance area has been nearly doubled to 27 feet from ground level, and new catwalks helped increase lighting capacity by 60 percent. It upgraded lighting, audio, and visuals as well.
“Now, more than two decades later, thanks to the incredible partnership of the DDC and DCLA, the commitment of New York City government officials, and many generous supporters, we have a state-of-the-art home that will serve the Irish Rep and our creative mission for decades to come,” said Ciaran O’Reilly, Producing Director of the Theatre.
The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) is an advocacy organization which has been serving the City’s not-for-profit theatre community since 1973. DDC, along with its partners, worked on a project which opened a new performance space in Manhattan’s West Side. It featured two new theatres with flexible seating arrangements, one with 149-seat capacity, and another with 87-seat capacity. The space also features new dressing rooms, prop shops, storage, pantry, control booths, and offices, along with modern mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems that allow the project to achieve LEED Silver standards for environmental sustainability. In consideration of the performers, the audience, and other users of the building, rubber padding was installed under the stages to reduce extraneous noise and to soften the impact of physically demanding performances. To minimize distraction during performances, a vestibule was designed to block out light that might enter the theatres.
"A.R.T./New York, our Board, and our community of 360-plus member theaters owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the City of New York for making our dream of creating two state-of-the-art venues for nonprofit theatres come true,” said A.R.T./New York Executive Director Virginia P. Louloudes. “I was excited when I heard that the project had been turned over to DDC because I knew at that point it was really going to happen.”
“This City is proud to support the arts and provide valuable space for small and emerging performance groups,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Community theatres and off-Broadway productions provide intimate and experimental spaces for audiences, performers, and writers alike. While visitors associate New York with the Great White Way, they should know New York’s larger theatre scene is alive and thriving.”
Community theatres are cultural institutions that keep the City’s arts scene thriving, essential to the identity of New York. Investing in these projects will continue to pay off for decades, contributing to the local community and inspiring future generations.