Claire Tow Theater
(La Boite Sur le Toit)
In real life, architects and institutions seldom get to repair the errors of the past, or to learn from them to build anew. Except at Lincoln Center. Whatever missteps dogged the original structures, the recent makeovers (Alice Tully Hall and the plaza) and newbies (Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center) have exceeded expectations and been worth the wait. The Claire Tow, LCT3’s new rooftop theater (above the Vivian Beaumont) is no exception. Although almost invisible from ground level, it’s a simple glass box with a cunning program; an ingenious paradigm of less is more, and more. On a recent house tour, its virtues were everywhere apparent, created with an eye wide open to the future. Lincoln Center Theater wants to encourage upcoming artists, needs a stage suitable for mounting their work, and plans to attract the younger audiences who will find it relevant (and, at $20 a ticket, affordable). They have actually pulled it off. How? By building an intimate complex that includes a cafe/bar to continue conversations during intermissions and after hours, by having rehearsal space, offices, dressing rooms and green room right there, and by surrounding the entire enterprise with walls of glass that bring light into every corner. The effect is more than good design – it promises that great things will be taking place. And, as a finishing touch, there’s an outdoor garden and a roof deck overlooking the plaza and the surrounding cityscape, with a stereo viewer for closeups.
Architect Hugh Hardy has put the Claire Tow together with the craft of a master theater designer, whose experience goes back to working with Eero Saarinen on the construction of the Vivian Beaumont itself in the 1960s. He recounts some of the decade-long story with a dry wit. It was all about permits and permissions. “Lincoln Center is a tenant on city-owned land; the Lincoln Center Library is above (stacks of books) and the Vivian Beaumont is below. That was an architectural challenge.We needed elevators – outside the building? Through the Beaumont lobby? Where to put them without imposing on buildings and employees already in place?” But, like the seasoned negotiator he is, Hardy resolved the problems, impasse by impasse. To put it simply, no trace of them remains. Only the new house with its 112 new seats, waiting for the season to begin.
Paige Evans is LCT3’s Director. She creates and oversees a calender crammed with the playwrights, directors and casts of tomorrow, beginning with Slowgirl, by Greg Pierce, directed by Anne Kauffman (June 4 through July 15); a special event: We’re Gonna Die, written and performed by Young Jean Lee, with music by Future Wife (September 13 through September 15); and Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Kimberly Senior (October 8 through November 18). And, while you’re waiting, stop by to see 4000 Miles—a real gem of a play developed by LCT3 last season, now transferred to the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. It’s won an Obie (Best New American Play) for writer Amy Herzog, and for Performance (actors Gabriel Ebert and Mary Louise Wilson). Part of LCT3’s past and present, it will show you what you can hope to see in LCT3’s future. To find out what’s coming down the road: web site