From the off
From the Off reconsiders Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1812 original theater as an ambiguous, open-ended mistranslation of its constituent parts for the post-digital age. We seek a low-resolution, off-kilter mirage of partial references, quasi-resemblances, and mediocre translations in an effort to resensitize ourselves to the material world.
Predetermination of social behaviors of visitors, performers, and audience members are eliminated in favor of a flexible, informal plinth where many types of social engagement are possible. Axial and processional entries are discouraged so that visitors informally view an event from all directions. Nothing in particular is meant to happen so performers and visitors are free to discover new ways to relate to one another.
The round limestone retaining wall is reimagined as a moveable curtain, useful both as a backdrop and as a division between two spaces. Digitally abstracted, rescaled, and printed onto canvas, the limestone texture provides a lo-res approximation of Shaw’s original ring.
Instead of a horizontal layering of framed elements forming a proscenium, a field of mirrored columns constantly frames and reframes views, both of performers and audience members, in all directions, creating unanticipated views that can support non-hierarchical performances. Reflections on the mirrored surface reduce the visual monotony of repeated elements, allowing for unexpected views to occur.
A mesh ceiling made of fabric from recycled plastic bottles provides a loose, soft diffusion of light while protecting both audience and performers from the elements. Droops in the fabric will be slightly canted so that drainage can occur at the roof’s short end in the event of rain.
Without privileging any one particular form of theater, multiple scenarios - theater in the round, directional or proscenium, and decentralized performances - are all made possible for various levels of audience size. At its largest capacity, the 22’ wide circular stage is filled with performers, with onlookers seated to either side on the remaining platform, and on the lawn in a radial arrangement. At its smallest, the circular curtain can be completely enclosed with both performers and audience members situated within.
Benches are reconfigurable into squiggly benches or circular formations, which are sized to be able to meander within the column field. Picnic blankets, printed with oversized, low-res digital hatches, can be used for sitting on the grass or platform for any performance format. Both seating options are easily movable for each specific performance, which allows flexibility for performers and audience members. When performances are not occuring, the space can be used for informal gatherings or solitary repose.