Photos by Gill Alkin Photography
The Panasonic Theatre is a complete rebuilding of an existing venue, the c1900 New Yorker Theatre in a three-story building, to a new state-of-the-art 900-seat hall. The existing space prior to the Martinez+Johnson design had minimal dimensions that were outdated and dilapidated, and was in need of updated renovation and customization for modern performances.
Clear Channel Entertainment proposed the New Yorker be modified to accommodate a new presentation of Blue Man Group. To accomplish these modifications, M+J to studied the existing structure and conceived a new design. In addition to the re-configuration of the Statehouse area, the addition of a new balcony in the house in order to double seating capacity to 900 seats was needed. M+J met with Blue Man Group to design support space and establish minimum requirements for the stage and back-of-house areas. The performance group provided a concise program statement for the show from which M+J began the redesign process.
In the new design, the state is set up primarily as a black box with a soft proscenium formed by a free-standing box truss at each side and overhead. Spiral stairs at either side of the stage form the visual edges of the proscenium, emphasizing the multi-story performance space within with the audience is seated. Back-lite translucent panel walls, overhead galleries and catwalks connecting rear seating to the stage, projecting seat boxes, an added balcony, and vaulted ceilings connected to the stage loft all increase the performance capabilities within the venue, integrating the space and the performance seamlessly.
Input from Blue Man Group enabled the design team to develop back-of-house areas, refine stage dimensions, and begin the customization of the venue. In order to accommodate the variety and size of the support spaces for the show, a partial basement was excavated below the stage, providing necessary dressing rooms and wardrobe areas accessible by a new lift in the rear yard loading area. Above the stage a modified loft accommodates for the show, with a structure for dead-hung rigging at a minimum of 30 feet. There is no actual gridiron, but the leading edge of the proscenium is fitted to accommodate lighting and audio equipment as necessary for performances.