I. General Information - The Loeb Drama Center
Architect - Hugh Stubbins Associates
Theatre Consultant - George Izenour
The Loeb Drama Center was opened in 1960 by Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The facility is administered for the University by the American Repertory Theatre, and houses the activities of the Harvard/Radcliffe Dramatic Club, an undergraduate, extra-curricular producing organization, the American Repertory Theatre, a not-for-profit, professional, resident, repertory theatre company, and the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, a non-degree granting professional training program for actors, directors, dramaturgs, and other theatre artists.
The facility includes the 556 seat mainstage, the variable seating black box experimental theatre, a small scene shop, a costume shop, three rehearsal rooms, offices, generous lobbies, dressing rooms, and storage spaces. In order to accommodate the current level of activity, the A.R.T. also leases a 9000 sq.ft. scene shop, 4000 sq.ft of rehearsal space, and approximately 8000 sq.ft. of storage at various other nearby locations. For sound isolation the Loeb Drama Center is constructed as three separate building with flexible roof joints, joined only by multiple door sound locks and by double concrete filled refrigerator doors between the scene shop and each of the theatres. As a result all three zones are scheduled for concurrent operation. A typical year includes 100 performances in the Experimental Theatre and over 300 on the mainstage.
Plot size - 35,032 sq.ft.; Gross floor area - 52,043 sq.ft
The Loeb Drama Center mainstage is a technically complex variable form theatre seating 556 in each of its configurations. The steeply raked rear section of the auditorium contains 402 fixed seats in 12 rows, each 1' higher than the preceding. The lower section includes two less steeply raked seat wagons, each of 77 seats, that are designed to play in three positions; proscenium, apron or thrust, and opposing. To allow for the movement of the seat wagons into their onstage locations, the actual proscenium is 26' high and 60' wide, although normal playing height is 24' high X 36' - 46' wide. Exclusive of the apron area the stage is 32' deep and 94' wide at its widest, including approximately 14' stage right of the fixed proscenium and 20' stage left. The stage house is 60' tall, and 60' wide, with a working grid height of 53'6". The central 14' deep X 28' wide of the stage is trapped. Access to the stage is via a 10' X 12' door upstage right that goes into the scene shop, and to the loading dock. The greenroom is upstage right on the main floor. Two large and four small dressing rooms and wardrobe facilities are one floor below the stage.
The central area of the auditorium is occupied by four hydraulic elevators, each on two cylinders. Three of the elevators work together to raise and lower the seat wagons. In the thrust configuration the central elevator operates as a stage area. These three all travel independently from 4' below the auditorium floor to 3' above. The stage apron is a single elevator 30' wide, with a curved front from just under 8' to just under 10 feet wide. This elevator travels from trap room level 11' below the stage to 3' above, and can be used for moving freight to and from the traproom area, as an orchestra pit, or as a stage extension in either the proscenium or thrust configuration. The elevators have been used for slow theatrical effects.
The seat wagons are each 12,000 pound steel and plywood units. These units were originally moved on a multiple pivot scheme involving a hydraulic system to lift the unit onto its wheels, and the to drop the unit back down to allow for the wheels to be realigned with another pivot point. The pivot points are still used, but the wheels have just been replaced by special "Gapmaster" air bearings made by Aero-Go, Inc. of Seattle, Washington. Each wagon has four 27" diameter bearings; unlike conventional air bearings the bottom surface is covered with a perforated teflon material that allows the wagons to travel over the 3/4" gaps between elevators without dropping. The friction is sufficiently low for two people to move the units, but for safety we use four, with one at each corner. The air supply is a 15 psi, 250 cfm blower, supplied by Energy Machinery, Inc.
The flying system is a mixture of fixed position, single speed winched battens, used principally for electrics, 30 variable speed synchronous winches that can be operated singly or grouped, and conventional rope and sandbag rigging. No counterweights were installed to keep both wing clear, and with the hope that the synchronous winch system would fulfill all other needs. The synchronous winch system is used in conjunction with the other systems to provide sufficient flexibility. The 30 winches may be grouped up to six at a time in either of two independent channels, each powered by a 15 HP solid state variable frequency driver that supplies from 10 to 100 Hz. The winch system is now controlled from its original console, through a new solid state interface designed by Jim Read. Maximum speed is approximately 2ft/sec.
The lighting system has been augmented several times since the building opened, including the addition of more overhead catwalks and hanging positions in the auditorium to allow for the demands of rotating repertory, as well as the addition of some fixed speed onstage lighting battens. The current system includes 384 1.2KW ETC dimmers in a dimmer per circuit system, 36 more 2.4 KW dimmers on the grid for direct connection, and four 12KW cyc light dimmers from the original installation with seperate floor and grid distribution. This amalgam is driven through an DMX/AMX interface by an ETC Obsession installed in 1996, and located in a booth at the back of the auditorium. The instrumentation includes a few Century 1400 and 1500 series relics, over 100 Berkey 20-30-40 ellipsoidals, and a variety of Altman ellipsoidals, fresnels, and PAR fixtures. Additional units are rented on a show by show or repertory by repertory basis.
The sound control room at the back of the auditorium is also the sound studio facility for the building. The principle mixer is an TAC Scorpion 32 input X 16 output board driving 18 amplifier channels. A Yamaha 1202 mixer and an Audio Arts 18 X 10 X 2 mix board are used as auxiliary mixers. Speakers include two Eastern Acoustic Works mains, eight subsidiary JBL 4311's, a subwoofer, and other smaller speakers. Processing gear includes dBx Noise reduction throughout, a Yamaha Rev-7, a Yamaha Digital Delay, and a variety of equalizer and other signal processing units. In addition to microphone and speaker outlets through the auditorium and stage, the Theatre uses a SONY wireless microphone system with full diversity to handle as many as eigh simultaneous wireless microphones. The theatre is also equipped with headset and monitor systems for backstage, including some wireless headsets, and with an infra-red re-inforcement system for the hard of hearing.
III. Experimental Theatre
This theatre is a plain black box, 36' X 45' with a balcony around three sides, and a grid supporting movable panels approximately 16' high. Up to 100 interlocking plastic seats can be arranged in virtually any pattern on platform risers. Access to the space comes from any corner or through a double set of 8' X 10' sound doors into the shop area. Lighting control is currently a MicroVision FX controller running 72 2.4KW dimmers. Lighting units are hung on the grid, and cabled to the dimmers through hard wired cords. The sound system changes based on the need of the shows and the equipment available.
IV. The Shops
The area behind the mainstage is effectively a separate building. The basement level houses the furnace and air conditioning compressor for the building. The ground floor is a small scene shop including tools rooms, paint frame, and loading dock. This shop is used for all undergraduate construction, and as A.R.T.'s prop shop. The 30' X 16' paint frame is used for flats and drops fro the Ex and other small theatres; it is far too small for mainstage drops. The second floor area houses the costume shop, including a small crafts and dye area. Costume and prop storage for general use is underneath the main seating bank.
V. Rehearsal Rooms
The main rehearsal room is the 36' X 45', "marley" covered, wooden floored "Dance Studio" in the basement beneath the Experimental Theatre; regrettably the two are not sound isolated. Practice Rooms C and D are each 20' X 32' on the second floor above the main "West Lobby". The lobbies themselves are often used as rehearsal space as well. These rooms are heavily scheduled by the Production Manager from 8:00 am until midnight, seven days a week.
Section View of the Loeb in Proscenium (above) and Thrust (below)