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Royal Shakespeare Theatre Design Goes Stateside

Following on from the critical success of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has further developed Charcoalblue’s and Bennetts Associates’ multi-award winning auditorium designs to deliver a 975-seat ‘flat pack’ travelling performance space.

The new, three-tiered, structure has been built inside New York’s historic Park Avenue Armory. Here, from 6 July - 14 August, Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory, in association with The Ohio State University, are presenting the Royal Shakespeare Company for a repertoire of five of Shakespeare’s plays – As You Like It, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale.

“The flat pack theatre is a dynamic replica of the RST theatre, originally conceived by Charcoalblue and Bennetts Associates Architects,” explained Charcoalblue’s Design Director, Gavin Green. “The project has been led by the RSC’s Head of Construction and Technical Design Manager, Alan Bartlett, and has been designed and built in the RSC’s workshops in Stratford-upon-Avon.”

Known as the Scarlet & Gray Stage, the theatre is currently enabling US audiences to experience Shakespeare in the same intimate, three-dimensional thrust stage environment as in the bard’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Charcoalblue’s Managing Director Andy Hayles is delighted: “This latest exciting development follows on from the hugely successful Charcoalblue and RSC collaborations on the 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre and the 700 seat Roundyard theatre for the RSC’s annual season at The Roundhouse in London.”

Press interest in the Scarlet & Gray Stage has been keen. While in New York for the opening, Hayles was invited by NY journalist Wendy Goodman to join RSC Executive Director, Vikki Heywood, RSC resident designer, Tom Piper, and architect Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates to discuss their collaboration on the design of the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Actor Noma Dumezweni (who plays Paulina in The Winter’s Tale, Calphurnia in Julius Caesar and Nurse in Romeo and Juliet) joined them to discuss how it feels to play in a one-room space.

Since opening, the venue has been named ‘Stratford upon Manhattan’ and following a press visit to the space, Barbara Chai of the New York Times said that: “The smell of wood was ripe, and steel frames jutted out from the wooden flooring backstage. The red cushioned seats, also shipped over from the UK, are still covered in plastic. But what is evident is the way the space will lend itself to the performances.”





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