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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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Buzz Yudell, whose firm only recently completed the masterful renovation and seismic reinforcement of the Powell Library and construction of the Law Library, boasts the perfect resumé for this project. He is the son of a former Martha Graham dancer, the author of a frequently cited essay on "Body Movement" featured in an architectural textbook and a lover of dance whose own admittedly haphazard training ranges from classes with Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade to Daniel Nagrin and Dan Wagoner. He and his design team are also remarkable listeners who have convened countless meetings with groups of faculty and staff to brainstorm the functions of every part of the building.

At one such meeting, Peter Sellars goaded the architectural team to push beyond standard notions of what a theater should look like, describing the image he had in his mind of a warm, wood-lined space -- "No more black boxes," Sellars exclaimed -- that would be as appropriate a setting for sacred ritual as for experimental theater. "Soundstage meets Shinto shrine," he mused.

"What was great about what Peter was saying," says Yudell, "was the encouragement to create a space that was beautifully made but also enormously flexible, that has a strong character but which also allows choreographers and directors to explore many different modes of presentation. In fact, we were in a funny way looking for that kind of nudge."

The new plan (still subject to change) calls for the old basketball court in the building to be converted into a serenely plain and elegant theater with a simple balcony suspended on three sides. Rolling banks of seating will fold up and practically disappear when the space is being used for rehearsal or if the audience is seated in alternative configurations.

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