Theatre Design with Team 15

Typically, ACE Greater Philadelphia teams structure their programming around one overreaching concept.  Session by session, team leaders and mentors introduce A/C/E related terminology, lessons, and activities to students with the goal of connecting all learning to one theme.  Structuring sessions in this manner effectively makes the learning experience cohesive, relatable, and readily understood.  Team 15 is successfully working their way through a Theatre Design concept using precisely this type of programming.

One of two all-female teams in the Greater Philadelphia affiliate, Team 15 is led by team leaders Jennifer Yun (ACE alumna), Dave Urffer (ACE Advisory Council), and Ramune Bartuskaite.  The team is sponsored by CREW Philadelphia and meets bi-weekly at JKRP Architects, a Philadelphia architecture firm who is currently working on an addition to the Walnut Street Theatre.

“We are a workshop based team – each week we give an overview of one topic related to architecture, engineering, or construction management.  Since a few of our team’s mentors are working on the Walnut Street project,” relayed Samantha Neat, one of Team 15’s mentors, “focusing our team’s instruction around theatre design was a natural choice.”

Team Leader Jennifer Yun agreed, “Using the Walnut Street Theatre project as a concept, we are able to provide our students with a first-hand experience of the design and construction process.  Instead of looking at a slideshow each week, the girls are able to see the actual drawings of the addition and existing building.  They are provided with the hands-on opportunity to look at 3D, real-life applications of the session topics.”

Team leaders have thoughtfully planned sessions to include: an introduction to theatre design, construction management and bid packages, acoustical engineering, structural engineering, lighting design, set design, MAT, and site visits to two Philadelphia theatres.  Students will ultimately be able to present their teammates with a design idea for their ideal theatre – a session activity which will effectively tie-in all of the learning and experiences to which they have been exposed.

Making use of the resources at their disposal, Team 15 visited the Walnut Street Theatre where students and mentors were given an exclusive tour by the theatre’s managing director, Mark Sylvester.  “Mark was able to point out interesting details of the building such as bricked up windows and doors, the existing foundation walls, and the boundary lines of previous additions,” said Neat.

Sylvester’s tour included all aspects of the structure from the theatre goer’s perceives upon entering to the ancillary spaces behind the stage. The team was able to learn about the ticket booth, gift shop, and considerations which need to be made during construction so that there will not be an interruption to the productions scheduled in the existing theatre.

Students and mentors were also able to go behind the scenes and to learn about the back of the house operations including the props department, stage layout, and the complex fly system.  “Many students had not considered how the weights present in the pulley system have a direct impact on the structural engineering of the theatre,” Neat commented.

“In addition to pointing out various architectural and engineering details, Mark was able to speak to how much effort and coordination goes into creating a show and making sure it runs smoothly,” Neat mentioned, “Some of our students work within their theatre group at their schools and were able to relate what they know about putting on a production to how the architecture and engineering of a building impact the show itself.”

“For me, design is about the human experience; this is something which needs to be seen in person not just on paper,” said Yun. “Theatre is so interesting.  People love going to see shows and the design of a theatre cannot just be about the building itself.  It needs to be about the experience as a whole.  This tour gave us a chance to show our students just what this means.”

Team 15

Melissa Raffel
Author: Melissa Raffel