NATEAC Off To A Good Start
July 21st, 2008
Hard hats off to Bill Sapsis for organizing the first NATEAC (North American Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference) at the Michael Schimmel Center For The Arts at Pace University in lower Manhattan. Modeled after the theatre engineering and architecture conferences organized by theatre consultant Richard Brett in London (UK) in 2002 and 2006, NATEAC has brought together a stellar group of roughly 250 people—primarily architects, theatre consultants, and acousticians—about 75 of which are panelists. The conference got off to a fabulous start on Saturday evening, July 19, with a Circle Line cruise setting sail from South Street Seaport. In addition to folks from NATEAC, there were also some ESTA board and committee members "floating around," as ESTA held its annual summer meetings in NY, rather than Dallas, this summer to tie into NATEAC. It was a perfect evening with great weather—cooler on sea than on land—an orange moon just one day over full, the Statue of Liberty, the fabulous art installation waterfalls by Danish artist Olafur Eliassonlit up in all their glory, and as a special, but unplanned by Sapsis, touch, fireworks went off in the harbor near the end of the cruise. An evening to remember… with snippets of theatre-related conversations in the air… that project will happen, the steel is up… no grid at Alic Tully Hall?… Dubai…. large flexible theatre in the Park Avenue Armory… Dubai…
Day one of the conference on Sunday, July 20 was interesting, with two keynotes: one by Richard Brett and the second by architect Hugh Hardy who is known for his work on theatre design—from BAM to the renovations of Radio City, The New Amsterdam, The New Victory, etc.
For the next three sessions, attendees had their choice of three simultaneous topics to select from, according to personal interest. The best panel I attended was on the role of the architect in the theatre design and building process. Moderated by theatre consultant Bob Shook (who announced at the beginning of his session that they had no powerpoints to show, a statement met by a round of applause…). His panelists included consultant Joe Mobilia, acoustician Mark Holden, cost consultant Joe Perryman, architect Leigh Breslau, and owner's rep Rick Pfannenstiel. What ensued was a lively discussion based on a series of questions posed by Shook and it was great to hear such an intelligent group of people really discuss such issues as the architect VS the "starchiect," the role of the end user in the design process etc. On an earlier panel, speakers relied too much on reading lines from their powerpoints as if they were teleprompters, so that you really didn't get a handle on the genius of really smart guys like Scott Fisher.
NATEAC: A Real Winner
by Ellen Lampert-Greaux
July 23rd, 2008
The second day of the NATEAC, the inaugural North American Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference, confirmed its success and importance. Once again there were three sessions X three times slots, followed by a concluding plenary session in the afternoon. I attended sessions on Alternative Theatre Spaces, The Greener Theatre, and Single Purpose Theatres-Vegas & Beyond. In the alternative spaces session, Chris Buckley, Stan Pressner, and Robert Long looked at recent technically challenging productions such as the Macbeth at the roof-less tobacco warehouse in Brooklyn and Die Soldaten at the Park Avenue Armory, using them as prime examples of the what's, how's and wherefore's of using such spaces, from proper permits to enough power.
The Greener Theatre talked about created LEED certified buildings and ended on a pretty funny note. Architect Scott Georgeson had shown an image of a theatre with a grass roof so that people looking down on it from the bluffs above would see a park rather than an industrial roof. Later in the session, someone suggested that wool, right off the back of the sheep, would make great acoustic material and be a very organic option. So moderator David Taylor suggested putting grass on the top of all flytowers for the sheep, to keep them nearby. Taylor continued to be very funny and spot-on during the plenary session he co-chaired with Steve Ehrenberg… who had just moderated the single purpose theatre panel, using Vegas as an example, and even showing the numbers of how these $100 million venues recoup quickly.. in just two years for a sellout show.
In the plenary session, Steve and David wrapped up the two days of sessions.. Steve offered some funny lightbulb jokes.. how many architects etc…. and they provided a series of themes that had cropped up during all the various sessions. In the end, the first US NATEAC concluded with everybody ready to come back for the next one! Congrats again to Bill Sapsis and his staff for organizing and running a good conference. And maybe, just maybe, all of the sessions and discussions and networking will really lead to better buildings and a greener outlook for the future of the performing arts.