A Very Full Empty Space

by Michael Eddy
The newly renovated Space Theatre at DCPA. David Lauer Photogrpaphy
The newly renovated Space Theatre at DCPA. David Lauer Photogrpaphy

Theater spaces. There is nothing better than sitting alone in a theater, just contemplating the space around you. I love to sit alone with my thoughts in a theater and just look at it. I love the architecture and structure of theaters and discovering the reasoning behind their design and detailing. It’s more than a purposeful room; it’s a space, even when it is ‘empty’. But a theater is never really empty, even when it is, as we say, ‘dark’. This space is filled with emotion, a sense of purpose, a drive. In its design alone it is full of ideas, details, and expectations. Everyone who enters it—no matter who—theater artisan or audience—brings something to it. Everyone who enters this space will leave something as well, hopefully not hard candy wrappers. Yes, it may look empty, but it’s not. It is filled with the things that make it a theater, it’s merely waiting for the theater artisans to enter and create.

I have been fortunate in my career in theater to get to spend time and have wonderful conversations with some of the people who design theater spaces. [When I grow up, I want to be a theater consultant.] Among the numerous theater consultants I have had the good fortune to speak with, including Roger Morgan, Duane Schuler, Bob Shook, Joshua Dachs, David Taylor, Chuck Cosler, Jules Lauve, Alec Stoll to name but a few of those whose job I envy. Perhaps it is the graciously-given time and conversations over years with Richard Pilbrow that have most shaped my thinking about what is a theater space. Truly the pioneer of theater consulting and design, Pilbrow has been behind some amazing theatrical spaces. He makes clear the passion and respect for the space itself; for its purpose to house creative work; for the space itself to be a creative player in the making of theater. Whether you love every aspect of the theater you are producing a show in, or hate certain aspects, and let’s admit it we all have wondered, ‘Why would you ever put that pipe there!?!?’ ‘Who designed this place!?!?’, I believe you have to acknowledge theater consulting is as much a theater craft practiced by theater artisans as any production discipline. 

That is why I am glad that in this issue we have coverage of theater design and consulting, the services and products that go into spaces, and some projects that reflect the collaboration of the space, the design choices, and the theater experiences created. Because no matter your role in theater, all of us have a hand in shaping and adding to the history of a theater space we enter and work within. It should be taken as a privilege to be contributing to the history; to the ‘ghosts’ of a theater. Yes, to all of us an empty theater is actually very full. It is full of possibilities; it is full of promise.