By Katina Beniaris
A new theater building, designed by acclaimed Chicago architect Jeanne Gang and the centerpiece of a $34 million fundraising campaign by Writers Theatre, opened in the north suburbs on Friday.
Writers Theatre officials cut the red ribbon Friday morning in an opening ceremony celebrating the theater’s new center at 325 Tudor Court in downtown Glencoe. Designed by Studio Gang Architects and built by W.E. O’Neil Construction, the building is now open to the public. The company’s first production in its new home, Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia,” will open March 16.
“The opening of the new Writers Theatre represents the culmination of more than eight years of tireless dedication, perseverance and the incredible contributions of so many,” said the theater’s executive director, Kathryn M. Lipuma, in a press release announcing the opening.
In 1992 the Writers Theatre began operations in the back of a downtown Glencoe bookstore producing plays in a space that held only 50 seats. In 2003 the theater company moved to its second home, a 108-seat theater in the Women’s Library Club of Glencoe building. The new building that opened Friday holds a total of more than 300 seats in two theaters, along with rehearsal rooms and public amenities.
Located on the site of the Library Club’s demolished building, Writers Theatre now has its first purpose-built home. The new center is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and visitors are welcome to enjoy its public spaces.
“Studio Gang has created a home for us that not only expands our creative possibilities but actually blows them wide open,” said Michael Halberstam, Writers Theatre’s artistic director and co-founder in the opening announcement.
This Studio Gang Architects project was led by Jeanne Gang herself, who is also a MacArthur Fellow. Her awarding-winning work in Chicago ranges from the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk to the Aqua Tower downtown.
The new Writers Theatre contains two performance venues, a 250-seat main stage and a 99-seat flexible, black box venue. A second-floor gallery walk provides views of the lake, while at night the lighted building becomes downtown Glencoe’s cultural anchor.
“Through open, transparent public spaces, the new center creates settings for the kind of daily collaboration that is fundamentally exhibited in the missions of both Writers Theatre and Studio Gang,” Gang said. “The building exhibits this collective of values through form and craft, itself becoming a lantern for the community and transforming the future of Writers Theatre.”
To celebrate the theater’s former home, bricks from the old library club building are patterned on the back-of-house acoustic screen. Overall, the space aims to create an intimate feel similar to the company’s original venues. A rooftop pavilion and green roof offer additional event space as well.
Approximately 350 individuals have contributed a total of more than $33 million toward the theater’s $34 million fundraising goal. The money will help cover theater center design, construction, transition costs, programming, and also establish a cash reserve.
“While Writers has long been recognized for its world-class art and artists, an amazing group of supporters with a shared belief in the mission has come together to support these artists and that artistic vision,” said Christopher S. Pfaff, president of Writer Theatre’s board of directors.
“Arcadia” will be the venue’s first production in the 250-seat performance space, officially known as the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre. Halberstam will direct the production. For more information, visit writerstheatre.org.