Thursday, November 10, 2011

Construction in Progress: Zach's Topfer Theatre, November 9

Downtown Austin seen from Zach's Topfer Theatre

Zach Theatre Management Invites the Press and Media into the Topfer Theatre

November 10, 2011

by Michael Meigs

Building crews continue hard at work within the Zach Theatre's $22 million venture at Lamar and Riverside. Zach's producing artistic director Dave Steakley and managing director Elisbeth Challener invited press for a tour of the locale yesterday, in company of the architects Arthur W. Andersson and F. Christian Wise. Mort Topfer was there for part of the walk-though.

Andersson drew word pictures of the rain garden and plaza that would link the Zach's three theatres as of the formal black-tie opening of the plaza and the new Topfer Theatre on September 27 . The Topfer's western façade will feature thick glass panels evoking curtains and the "Juliet balcony" for which Zach is commissioning short drama pieces from Suzan-Lori Parks, Steven Dietz and others. Once the inaugural production of the full-orchestra musical Ragtime gets going, the Zach will provide free pre-show performances featuring the balcony, running from 6:30 p.m. and available to all passers-by. Steakley expects to announce the 2012-2013 theatre schedule for Zach in February, 2012.

Visitors from the media (left: Lisa Schepps, KOOP-FM)

The Topfer will feature all-LED lighting, an innovation pioneered by one other theatre to date, in London. Heating and air conditioning machinery is located in an immediately contiguous building, well insulated from the audience space and will feed the airflow into a large space beneath the seating area. Air will rise through the auditorium floor via vents located beneath seats.

The main stage is named for Zach legend Karen Kuykendal, whose ashes have been interred in its foundation. It features a full orchestra pit. The audience space will accommodate 427 spectators.

The management is undertaking a final push to complete funding of construction and set-up costs. To date $18.3 million of the $22 million needed has been raised. A mail-out just made to regular subscribers is asking for a commitment of $60 per year; the Zach is asking potential donors, both individuals and corporations, to pledge to the project, offering 'naming' opportunities for building features, down to the individual seats.

Click to view images from yesterday's walk-through of the project and links to other media reporting of the event. . . .

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