by David Dower
We've been working in the new Mead Center for American Theater now for over two months. Many of you are about to get your first chance to see it. Here are some things to look for when you make your way around it. I've said to anyone who asks, this building has its own energy, which is a wonderful thing to feel when you walk in every morning for work. Even when I've been the only person in it, the place feels in motion- like I've walked into a smart party already in progress. Which I love. So, as you move through it, watch for things like this:
1) There are virtually no straight lines. The walls are curved and flanged, not straight up and down. The floors slope. There are virtually no right angles. This, I think, is why it feels like it's moving.
2) It makes you want to touch it. You'll feel like patting the smooth, curved concrete and the wooden masts. You'll want to run your hand along the top of the concession stand and your fingers through the carpets. It makes you want to engage it like that. Go ahead-- it won't break.
3) The light. Everywhere. It is incredible how the play of light makes such a huge concrete building feel light and playful.
4) The walkaround. When you've toured it, you'll know. Like an entrance into Narnia.
5) The enshrined presence of our history in the form of the Fich and the Kreeger as you move through the building. You see them from every level-- even from the offices. This continuity is inspiring and energizing. It also demands our intention, not just our attention, as we move into the new era. "Arena Stage has a storied history", it reminds us. "What are you going to contribute to that story today?" This is a new chapter, not a new book. We will keep the story moving.
6) The Concessions sign. OK, this is actually something my wife really likes. So I've come to love it as well.
7) That there are no internal walls or columns. You will notice it immediately-- the sense of open space and air and light. But you won't necessarily place it. The open volume of the space is made possible by the huge concrete cylinder which cradles the Kogod. It's taking all the weight for the rest of the building, so the rest of it floats and flows. Which is what I do when I walk from my office to the rehearsals to the kitchen. And grin. I float and grin. And sometimes I sing. Quietly. To myself. Otherwise that'd be bad...
8) There's a small private area at the back of the outdoor Terrace. I keep threatening to make it my conference room. If you don't find me some nice day you should look for me out there. I'll be reading plays. Silently. To myself. Otherwise that'd be bad...
9) Watching stormy weather from the Study. The fifty-foot glass curtain creates the feeling that you are standing right inside the weather without getting wet. I hope you get to feel that some day. But not on Homecoming Day. That would be bad...
10) The way it mingles the audience, staff, artists, and visitors. Equalizes everyone in a public square. When you are there, keep your eyes open. You are likely walking past the manager of our costume shop or the stage manager or an actor or a neighbor on a tour or an audience member or a resident playwright or the staff of the cafe or the artistic director. Could be any of us. We all move through the same lobby. Say hello. That won't be bad.