An Inside Tour of Theatre for a New Audience's Brooklyn Home, the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

By Robert Simonson
28 Oct 2013

The building was erected with $34.4 million in City funds coupled with $30 million in individual donor support. ($3.6 million of the capital campaign goal of $69.1 million remain to be raised.) A $10 million gift from The Polonsky Foundation gave the theatre its name. The city owns the building, on which TFANA has a 30-year lease, with an option to buy.

The building is being billed as "the first classical theatre built in New York City in more than four decades." The playing space is a combination of an Elizabethan courtyard theatre, as might be recognizable to Shakespeare, and a modern black box theatre. Horowitz said it was inspired, in part, by the Cottesloe, the smallest of the theatres inside the National Theatre in London.

The rectangular stage — named the Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage — is surrounded by 299 seats, divided over three levels, including two balconies. Though snug at first glance, the space is deceptively large. The three levels of seating means a high ceiling and remarkably vast fly space. "It is double the height of any Off-Broadway theatre," said Horowitz. "Because we had height, we brought the seating in closer. Think of it as a bullring."

With the removal of a window and a wall, the back of the theatre can be extended into a neighboring studio space, giving the stage a potential of 100 feet of depth. Furthermore, in a nod to Elizabethan stages, there is a trap space below the stage, allowing set pieces and performers to rise up from below the floor.



The stage overall has seven possible configurations, including theatre-in-the-round and a thrust stage. What shape it takes is up to the discretion of the director and their vision for their production. Moreover, the space can be shrunk to 99 seats or 50 seats for development projects and readings.

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