Tony signed himself and me up for the USITT Architecture Commission theater tours on Tuesday March 13, 2018. It was a long but rewarding day. Many thanks to David Vieira of WJHW and Richard Heisenbottle of RJHA for organizing and leading the tour, and the generous venue staffs for opening their doors to us.
Our first stop was the Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. This pleasant little multipurpose theater seats 450 and was designed by RJHA.
The next stop was the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road in the heart of South Beach. This art deco cinema opened in 1935 and was converted for live performance by Morris Lapidus in 1976.
RJHA renovated the 440-seat theater in 2006, adding dressing rooms above the stagehouse (!) with scissors stairs to provide two means of egress.
The New World Center was a short walk from the Colony. The 750-seat concert hall was designed by Frank Gehry. It’s a fine, carefully crafted hall and a beautiful building. But it’s the New World Symphony’s innovative programming that makes it a phenomenon.
Your intrepid touring theater consultants at New World Center.
Then back on the bus for the trip to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. The Cesar Pelli designed complex has three formal performance spaces—the 2,400-seat Ziff Ballet Opera House, the 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall, and the 200-seat Carnival Studio Theater. The Florida Grand Opera was in a lighting rehearsal, so we caught only a brief glimpse of the opera house. We had a whirlwind tour of backstage areas the studio theater, and we spent quality time in the concert hall, looking up!
The final tour stop was the Olympia Theater, an historic atmospheric picture palace in Miami. Originally designed by John Eberson, the theater opened in 1926. It was renovated in the 1970s by Morris Lapidus, and again in the early 2010s by RJHA.
As further proof that it’s the programming that makes the building sing—the Olympia operator uses the lobby lounge as an informal performance space for the Moth Miami StorySLAM, jazz performances, and a combination of burlesque and improv.