The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will officially open its renovated Theater Lab today, November 12, 2012 at 6 p.m. with a performance of music and poetry. The evening will feature Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Gregory Porter in a performance curated by award-winning actress, director, playwright, and Artistic Director of the DC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival Kamilah Forbes. The program will blend Porter's music with the spoken word, highlighting works and performances by some of today's most innovative female poets, including Holly Bass, Mahogany Browne, Vanessa Hidary, and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai. The one-hour performance will be streamed live on the Center's website and archived for future viewing.
Throughout the 2012-2013 season, a variety of programming will be presented in the Theater Lab. Many of these performances will be part of the free Millennium Stage series and will be interspersed throughout the season. Additional details will be announced at a later date. Over Labor Day weekend, the Lab will also host performances during the Center's annual Page-to-Stage festival which features more than 40 DC-area theater companies offering free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals in development. Theater cabaret performances that are part of the Millennium Stage series, such as the ASCAP Foundation showcase, will also be able to grace the space. The long-running Shear Madness will continue its 25-year run in the Theater Lab.
The five month renovation is the fifth of the Center's seven theaters to be renovated or opened since 1997. The renovation for the Concert Hall was completed in 1997, the Opera House in 2003, and the Eisenhower Theater in 2008. The Family Theater was constructed in 2005, replacing a space dedicated to the American Film Institute. All theaters have been brought up to current accessibility standards.
The five-month renovation transformed the Theater Lab into the Center's only thrust stage, providing a more intimate experience and allowing more diverse programming. The new configuration accommodates 397 seats, with no audience member sitting more than 30 feet away from the stage. The theater provides 12 wheelchair accessible seating positions on all levels while a new elevator allows full access to the theater, control booth, and backstage areas. The renovation has acoustically isolated the theater from the Kennedy Center Atrium and a new corridor provides permanent public access between the Nations and States Galleries. Environmental sustainability goals were achieved through the use of FSC-certified woods, materials with a high percentage of recycled content, and the use of energy efficient LED performance lighting. The Theater Lab will be one of the city's first theaters to utilize all LED production lamps.
Audiences will notice a significant new "look" in the Theater Lab. The thrust stage of the theater, now permanent, faces west. The bench seating of the old Lab has been replaced with permanent seats upholstered with red and orange fabrics by Maharam.
RCG Architects of Baltimore, MD is the renovation's architect of record and Theatre Projects Consultants of South Norwalk, CT served as theater designer. The acoustical consultant was Jaffe Holden Acoustics and construction was completed by Rand Construction Corporation of Washington, DC.