New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theater Club breaks ground on first restoration in their building’s history
Founded in 1967 by Ellen Stewart, La MaMa ETC is celebrated as the birthplace of the ‘off-off Broadway’ scene. Now, in their 57th season, the 1873 building will undergo its first renovation – the first in a three-part, $50 million master capital plan.
Last week’s ground-breaking ceremony at La MaMa’s Manhattan home on 74 East 4th Street kicks off a hugely exciting drive to renovate all four of the organisation’s East Village properties.
Alongside architect Beyer, Blinder & Belle and consultant Jean-Guy Lecat, we have undertaken technical theatre and acoustical consultancy for the project, overseeing the implementation of seating systems, stagelighting, audiovisual design and acoustics. Together the team will work to reinvigorate the building throughout, including a major upgrade of the main performance space, the creation of a secondary performance, rehearsal and teaching space and improving visitor and artist facilities.
Among the attendees were La MaMa Board President Frank Carucci and Artistic Director Mia Yoo; Tony-winning composer and La Mama’s own Scott Wittman; National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong; the city’s Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Charcoalblue’s New York Studio Principal Jerad Schomer and Senior Consultant Owen Hughes.
“Being a part of making these spaces ready for another 50 years, while respecting the history of the last 50 is a marvellous responsibility to have.”
Senior Consultant Owen Hughes
Render of the redeveloped foyer space at La MaMa ETC. Render: Kim Wendell Design, LLC.
How 74 East 4th Street will look following the refurbishment. Render: Kim Wendell Design, LLC.
Together the team will work to reinvigorate the building throughout, including a major upgrade of the main performance space. Render: Kim Wendell Design, LLC.
The project will also include much-needed artist facilities. Render: Kim Wendell Design, LLC.
The exciting developments will see one space form the core of the theatre’s teaching and meeting facilities, and another create a central performance space. This space will feature a system of flexible platform staging, loose seating for multiple configurations and new stagelighting and audiovisual infrastructure. In addition, there will be new pipe grids for suspended equipment and a new drapery package.
"This building has been home to generations of creators and performers,” explains Artistic Director Mia Yoo. “It is where unknown and underrepresented artists tell their stories in unexpected and surprising ways. Our building must be made ADA accessible and undergo urgently needed renovations if it is to be a viable resource for the next generations of artists and audiences."
“La MaMa has been an indispensable fomenter of artistic creation since its creation," said Charcoalblue Senior Consultant Owen Hughes. “Being a part of making these spaces ready for another 50 years, while respecting the history of the last 50 is a marvellous responsibility to have. With my roots in the downtown New York theatre scene, La MaMa was one of my early classrooms, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this.”
The renovated space is due to open in 2019.