stages repertory theatre
Professional - Gensler Houston - June 2015 through August 2015 - in collaboration with Lyly Huyen, Andrew Gazda, and Shannon Osborne
The remodel of Stages Repertory Theatre was a pro bono project by Gensler Houston to inspire the theatre administration to consider less conventional options for the redevelopment of the theatre. The premise of the project was for three teams of four interns to compete with each other to develop the best proposal for Stages. Our team--affectionately known as team "break-a-keg"--balanced the practical need to keep the theatre open during its renovation with how the renovated theatre could transform itself into having a much greater neighborhood presence.
Stages Theater maintained a major presence within the Houston Arts scene, up to a point. Their small theatre size pales in comparison to many of the larger theatre establishments in Houston. That said, the small size of Stages is also its greatest asset, creating a unique and much more tightly-knit community around the theatre. Unfortunately, the loyal community base does not make up for the increasingly deteriorating facilities. Stages Theatre was built inside a former machinist workshop in the 70s, and retains all of the charm of that decision. This has left some suboptimal conditions within the building, including cramped backstage circulation, a lack of a defined lobby space and columns blocking views within the theatres.
Our proposal is to take advantage of the renovation mandate to reinvent the experience and image of Stages Theater within the Houston theatre community and for the Montrose neighborhood it occupies. In this case, the theatre's location within Montrose--Houston's gayborhood-cum-trendy cultural district--is its greatest and most neglected asset. With the lobby being the most critical element lacking in the theatre, a new, well-defined lobby space can become the new face of Stages Theatre and an attractor for new visitors to the Stages family.
As the focal point of the renovation, the lobby does double duty for ticket sales and a gathering space for intermissions for patrons in addition to being a speakeasy bar that operates independently of the theatre itself. Imagine a space where showgoers and other community members have the opportunity to mingle with patrons of the new, hottest bar in Montrose. In this way, even people not interested in theatre have the opportunity to interact with the extremely passionate Stages community as a way of gaining new members.
In addition to the interaction between existing and future patrons in the speakeasy, the lobby space also acts as a showcase of the effort the theatre puts in on the back stage, a peek behind the curtain.
The theatres themselves represent a new stylistic direction taken to reinvent the atmosphere of Stages Theatre. To give the theatre an edgy, yet modern atmosphere, geometrically styled wooden acoustic elements and rich colors create a fresh take on art deco. Nailing the atmosphere, and distinguishing Stages Repertory Theatre as something completely different from other Houston Theatre experiences will reinvigorate stages for another generation of actors and patrons.
The outdoor roof patio is a space that is theoretically fulfilled by the existing, but much neglected courtyard in the existing building. Unlike the existing space however, the outdoor terrace acts as a secondary focal point to draw patrons further into the theatre, towards the gallery and the rehearsal space. Much like the lobby, the new patio adds value to Stages as a new place to host events beyond the theatrical portion of the program.
The phasing of the theatre was the second critical element to determining the viability of the project. Phase One demonstrates the existing condition of the theatre. The large unadorned building to the south is the current theatre workshop where sets, props and costumes are made and stored. The main body of the theatre, including the two theatres, reception, backstage areas, and restrooms exists within the long, tiered extrusion. In between the main theatre area and the workshop structure is a fairly neglected and inaccessible courtyard that is open to the street. The remainder of the building with the historic exterior facade is the administrative portion of the theatre. The only element of the project that truly needed to remain fixed was the facade on the administrative portion and along the length of the main theatre area. Given that the theatre was converted from a textile workshop to a theatre in the 70s and has not been renovated since, a major reconstruction is in order.
Phase Two is perhaps the most drastic element of construction that will significantly hamper the everyday operations of the theater. The strategic demolition of the workshop, courtyard, and amphitheater leaves the Stages operating as a skeleton. In this case, all that remains in the current theatre is their premiere thrust theatre, reception area and restrooms. Notice the retention of the elevator foundations from the workshop building as a potential cost-saving measure. The administrative portion, as the true historic element of the project will remain mostly untouched throughout the renovations. Although Stages theatre would be able to hold performances in this condition, the theater would essentially be operating on life support, and costumes and props would be maintained on a remote site.
For Phase Three, the large zone created by the demolition of the workshop, courtyard and amphitheater portion becomes the construction site for the the new, functioning face of Stages Theatre. Rather than maintain the entrance along the historic facade along Rosine St. the new entry point of the theater is moved to the corner of Rosine and D'Amico streets. The volumetrically defined lobby becomes the new focal point for the theatre and bleeds off into the remaining program. In addition to the lobby, the prop shop, costume shop, restrooms, and new thrust theatre will be completed. At this point, all theatre operations can be returned to the site and handled within the new construction.
Phase Four is the final construction phase of the theatre. With all operations moved to the existing newly constructed portion, the old thrust theatre, restrooms, and lobby are free for demolition. Discounting the proximity of the construction work, Stages Theatre is fully operational. Note the preservation of the historic façade along Rosine St. throughout the construction process.
The final buildout of Stages Theatre occurs in Phase Five. Here, some of the less vital, but still important programmatic elements are completed. The most critical component of the theatre completed in this phase is the multipurpose black box theatre. In addition to the black box theatre, there are also changing rooms for actors, a rehearsal space, a gallery, and a rooftop patio. Although slightly contrived, the rooftop patio is a way to transform a mandatory fifteen foot setback from the historic façade into a functional asset for the theatre to host events.