BROOKLYN, NY | In 2000, Harvey Lichtenstein, recently retired executive director of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), invited Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), a modern classical theatre, to build its first home in what was previously known as the BAM Cultural District. Established in 1979, TFANA produces Shakespeare alongside a wide range of other major authors. Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director, wanted a space that would be both intimate and epic, but without one fixed perspective, so that artists could change the configuration of the stage and audience depending upon the needs of a particular play and production. The Cottesloe at London’s Royal National Theatre inspired Horowitz.
A team consisting of architects Hugh Hardy and Geoff Lynch (H3 Collaboration Architecture), theatre consultants Jean-Guy Lecat and Richard Pilbrow, acoustician Russell Todd, and graphic artist Milton Glaser collaborated with Horowitz on designing the 299-seat Scripps Main Stage and 50-seat Rogers Studio. Over the next year, TFANA will host a series of free public discussions, which will focus on each team member’s exploration of how theatrical design can support art. I am honored to kick off TFANA’s Humanities series “Part One: A Conversation with Jean-Guy Lecat,” an exploration on space, architecture and performance design. Our conversation talk is set for Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 5:30pm at the Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn. FREE EVENT. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tfana.org. Who is Jean-Guy Lecat? Peter Brook calls him “Monsieur Space.” Jean-Guy is a French scenic designer and architectural consultant for Peter Brook’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, BAM Harvey Theater, and consultant to Jeffrey Horowitz. But I see him more properly as a space designer and a developer of architecture. Why? Because Jean-Guy devotes himself fully to the transformation of space for performance. He is untiring in his exploration of the interaction of theater and architecture, design and performance, space and storytelling.
Jean-Guy Lecat’s guiding hand can be gleaned in the construction of Teatro Azul de Almada in Lisbon, the building of the New Young Vic in London, the major renovation of the historic Abbey Theatre in Dublin, the conversion of an old Norway factory into theatre spaces and schools, the remaking of the Naves del Antiguo Matadero into a performing arts space in Madrid — and now the construction of Theatre for a New Audience’s new home at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. Prior to the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Lecat was known in New York for transforming a literally crumbling 1904 space, two blocks from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (formerly the Majestic, it had been boarded up for 20 years) into the BAM Harvey Theater. The newly refurbished Harvey was built specifically to house Peter Brook’s nine-hour production of The Mahabharata and his subsequent The Cherry Orchard.
In an award-winning magazine profile of Jean-Guy Lecat, “The Further Adventures of Monsieur Space” (American Theatre, January 2009), I wrote, “Although the term ‘maverick’ has become much-abused in the media nowadays, it is actually an apt description of Lecat’s place in the pantheon. On the occasion of the publication of ‘The Open Circle,’ Brook dubbed Lecat ‘Mr. Space,’ because he thrives in the avant-garde of an entirely new profession that is neither scenic design nor architecture–call it space design. Perhaps another way of looking at Lecat’s trade is that he is a stage manager of space, whose simultaneous aims are to lift the theatre experience to a new level, to bring the text forward, and to stimulate ‘the imaginary,’ which he views as the real current and lifeblood of theatre.’ ” In a period of 25 years, Lecat designed approximately 200 performance spaces for Brook around the world, as well as many others in cooperation with international theatre makers and architects. Lecat began his career as a stage design assistant in the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier in Paris and as an architectural assistant at the Avignon festival. Lecat has worked as a stage manager, scenographer and light designer for Jean Vilar, Jorge Lavell, The Living Theatre, La MaMa, Jean-Marie Serreau, Luca Ronconi, Jean-Louis Barrault, Dario Fo, Roger Blin and Samuel Beckett.