Harvard University opened its newest theatrical venue on October 17th when President Drew Gilpin Faust and the Office for the Arts at Harvard presented the New College Theatre to the wider community. During the opening celebration, the important role of the arts in the life of Harvard University was acknowledged as this undergraduate theater joined the ranks of the American Repertory, Sanders, and Agassiz Theatres to become the latest of Harvard’s performance spaces, which will serve as a venue for the 700 undergraduates who are involved in theater at the university.
Built on the site of the former Hasty Pudding Theatre and Club House, the New College Theatre is a state-of-the-art performance and rehearsal center. It was designed by the architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel Associates, who were able to tuck the 272-seat space into the back of the original 1887 building. The Hasty Pudding Theatricals, an independent endeavor, will continue to present their well-known musical productions in the theater. Their presence was felt at the opening night ceremony when, as the ribbon was about to be cut, two members of the group arrived in exuberant fashion to interrupt the proceedings and provide President Faust with an oversized pair of scissors with which to cut the ribbon.
The theater itself is large. By cutting into the earth and locating half of the new construction below sidewalk level, the architects were able to make it three stories high. The restoration is considered by the Cambridge Historical Commission to have been carried out successfully, with the building’s old front rooms preserved to be used as an entry area and social space. The new additions include an auditorium, rehearsal space, dressing rooms, offices, classrooms, and a prop and scene shop, all of which will provide Harvard theater practitioners with modern technology and conveniences.
At the opening night celebration, festivities included a panel discussion on the future of playwriting, tours of the new facility, and the opportunity to observe rehearsals by Harvard musical and theater groups. The panel discussion “Does Playwriting Have a Future?” was moderated by Robert Brustein, the founding director and creative consultant for the American Repertory Theatre. Brustein’s panel included the playwrights John Guare, Melinda Lopez, Adam Rapp, and Paula Vogel.
The inaugural production of the New College Theatre will be Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad by Arthur Kopit ’59, and will take place November 1st. The production is directed by 2007 Elliot Norton Award winner David R. Gammons ’92, and will feature an all-undergraduate cast.
Further events to be held at the theater this season include A Conversation with Arthur Kopit on Friday, November 2nd and Beckett at 100, three short plays by Samuel Beckett originally written and produced for BBC radio and television, running from November 15th – 17th. The Silk Road Project, running from November 26th – 30th, will feature cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76 and workshop performances of Layla and Majnun, a chamber opera adapted from a 7th Century Arabian folk tale. Etudes and Attitudes, presented by the Harvard Ballet Company and featuring works by Bournonville, Petipa, Balanchine, and Lander will run December 14th – 15th. After the new year Stephen Schwartz’s 1991 musical Children of Eden will run from January 3rd – 6th and January 10th – 13th, and the season will be capped off with the 160th anniversary edition of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals original musical production. This year it will be titled Fable Attractions, and will run from February 15th – March 16th.