Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Architectural Theatrics

A handful of theatrical performances this Spring, all in New York City, incorporate architecture in various ways, be it thematic or set design. Below are some details on this synchronistic phenomenon.

Architecture of Dance
For the New York City Ballet's New Choreography and Music Festival, Santiago Calatrava has designed five sets for what's being called Architecture of Dance, showing now at Lincoln Center until June 27. Calatrava seems like a wise choice for this undertaking, given the inspiration he finds in the human body, the kineticism of some of his projects, and of course his name. The circles above, for example, move and overlap to activate the scenography and give the dancers something to respond to. Check out the video on the AOD mini-site for shots of this movement and explanation by Calatrava. The festival also commemorates the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center.


For the Metropolitan Opera's recent production of Attila, Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron created the sets and Miuccia Prada designed the costumes. The 19th-century play composed by Verdi "tells the story of civilization’s encounter with barbarism" across a backdrop of "destruction, rubble, lagoon, forest, darkness" rendered "all in a very naturalistic way" by the Swiss architects. The Architects Newspaper's blog has some photos of the floating rubble and vegetation.

The Bilbao Effect
The Bilbao Effect is the second part of a planned trilogy on contemporary architecture by Oren Safdie, the son of well-known architect Moshe Safdie. The younger's first play in the trilogy was 2003's Private Jokes, Public Places, which focused on gender roles in architecture and was set during an architecture student's project critique. The Bilbao Effect, opening for previews on March 12 at the Center for Architecture, "puts contemporary architecture on trial" after an architect's redevelopment project on Staten Island supposedly leads to a woman's suicide. Frank Gehry's presence in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is clearly a precedent for the play, especially since his Guggenheim in Spain led to the term of the play's title. The show runs until June 5.

The Glass House
The Glass House by June Finfer (directed by Evan Bergman) uses the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson's Glass House as backgrounds for "the penetrating dramatic plot that entwines the epic conflict between artist and patron." Further, "Resonance Ensemble is presenting the play is in repertory with Ibsen's The Master Builder."

Theatre for One

Theatre For One from Theatre For One on Vimeo.

"Theatre for One is a portable performing arts space for one performer and one audience member, that turns public events into private acts, making each performance a singularly intimate exchange." Conceived by Christine Jones and designed by LOT-EK, the object will be in Times Square's Duffy Square for ten days, from May 14-23.
Theatre for One resembles a reconfigured "road box" used for theater and other productions. This is certainly in keeping with LOT-EK's preference for reusing prefab and modular constructions from outside architecture. Inside is red padded velvet, recalling the previous occupants of much of Times Square, peeping booths. This interior, which can be seen at BLDGBLOG, reminds me of a science-fiction film, like a cockpit from 2001 transplanted to Times Square.