The roots of the Wyley Theatre in Dallas burgeon from the Arts District theatre – a decrepit metal shed that provided theatre companies the freedom to reconfigure its interior anyway they saw fit, thus receiving the name ‘the most flexible theatre in America’. The design of the new theatre wanted to continue the versatility that the makeshift nature of the original theatre offered, but without the repetitive financial costs of reconfiguring its stage. One of the most ‘freeing’ elements of the new design is rethinking the spatial organisation of the theatre by vertically stacking ‘front-of-house’ and ‘back-of-house’ functions rather than placing them adjacent to the theatre on the same horizontal plane. The result affords the chamber to be enclosed by an acoustic glass façade allowing the theatre to open up to the outside plaza space and use the city as a backdrop. The large glass panels contain black-out blinds to create an enclosed box and can be opened or closed to provide an alternative entrance and allow the open space to be extended and used for completely different functions such as large public or private events during the day or other non-performance times.
The 575 seat theatre remains highly versatile adopting the policy of non-precious materials to encourage companies to cut, drill, weld, glue, etc. to the surfaces. The space can transform between an abundance of automated configurations (proscenium, thrust, flat floor, arena) with the help of a small crew in the matter of a few hours. This is achieved by the amalgamation of proven technologies from other uses (e.g. mechanical technologies from those originally developed for moving scoreboards in sporting arenas). The ground plane can change height, tilt, or rotate using stage technology adapted from opera houses, In addition, most of the support spaces are not defined by a single function, many doubling their identities and are cleverly linked to allow for the multiplicity to take form fluidly – from patron’s lounge to a second lobby or the rehearsal room to theatre.
Images courtesy of Rex, Iwan Baan, Tim Hursley and Theatre Projects
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