October 04, 2006
John Drew To Get A Facelift
Seventy-five years of treading have left the boards of Guild Hall's John Drew Theatre more than a little worn, and on November 1 the theatre will close for an 18-month renovation.
When the theater re-opens in 2008, modern touches will complement refurbished holdovers. The audio-visual system and mechanical systems will be replaced and the acoustics improved. A digital video projector to screen cinema-quality DVDs and 35 mm film will be added. The seats will be replaced and five new dressing rooms will be added below the rebuilt stage, in addition to a new star dressing room and lounge/kitchen in the backstage area. The ceiling, depicting a circus tent, will be restored, as will the chandelier of glass balloons.
Robert A. M. Stern Architects, the firm that directed the overhaul of the East Hampton Library in 1997, will oversee the renovation. While state-of-the-art touches will improve the experience for the performers and the audience, Guild Hall's artistic director Josh Gladstone said the spirit of the theater will remain the same. "It is going to be refurbished in such a way that the details are going to be brought back to life."
While the heating/cooling system rarely gets top billing in the theatrical equation, Gladstone listed replacing the current system — "state-of-the-art circa 1951" — as one of the highlights of the planned renovation, one that will make the theater "a very comfortable place to see a show." The current AC unit, said Gladstone, "sort of sounds like the rumbling of timpani drums and that's always been a challenge when you've got sensitively-acted moments happening on stage."
While the building is being renovated, its productions will not be shuttered, but will be held at venues across the South Fork. "We will still provide outstanding theater productions to the community, in the community," said Ruth Applehof, executive director of Guild Hall. "Our exhibitions and programs in the museum and at the education center are ongoing and expanding while the theater transforms."
The final performance before the renovation is a reading of The Royal Family, by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, scheduled for October 27. The line up of performers includes Mercedes Reuhl, Marian Seldes, Paul Hecht and Daniel Gerroll.
"We're not looking to demolish the place and create something different," Gladstone said. "We're really looking to lovingly restore and recapture the spirit of the architecture of this theater and the character of this theater while at the same time putting in some 21st century flourishes."