Chicago’s former Biograph Theatre underwent an $11.5 million renovation, including a restoration of its façade to its 1930s look. It is now the 299-seat Victory Gardens Theatre at The Biograph, featuring a modified thrust stage, renovated lobby, new lighting and sound systems, and new seating by Series Seating, including an ADA-accessible area.
Theatre consultants Schuler Shook worked to achieve the goal of keeping an intimate feel in the space while adding to the seating capacity. Robert Shook, ASTC, and partner Todd Hensley, ASTC, have designed the lighting for numerous productions at Victory Gardens, and the consultants knew the theatre did not want the renovation to result in an overpowering auditorium but did have to accommodate the group of resident playwrights that needed larger stages.
The new stage, by Staging Concepts, is divided into 4’×8’ platforms that can also serve as traps. The overall stage measures 32’ wide by 30’ deep, with 16’ of wing space on each side. There is also a rehearsal room, two catwalks, and a series of fixed pipes over the stage, with plans to add motors in the future. Rigging pipes are dead-hung on new steel beams that were threaded though the old roof trusses, with some hemp rigging from the steel for scenic pieces. With pipes placed 10” apart over the entire stage, the rigging is more flexible than a pipe grid, and the pipes can slide out of the way, upstage or downstage, to hang scenic elements above them. Schuler Shook also added penetrations in the walls, filled with fire-stop pillows, as cable pass-throughs. Grand Stage Company provided rigging and soft goods.
A new lighting system, provided through Designlab Chicago, includes dimming and control from ETC, as well as Source Four ellipsoidals and PARs, Altman Fresnels, L&E MR16 three-circuit mini-strips, and 500W four-cell Altman cyc lights.
Sound reinforcement is mostly used only for musicals to keep the intimate feel of the space, so amplified voices are not usually necessary. Fabrics and other treatments create an acoustically warm space in the 100-year-old brick building.
The audio and projection gear was specified by Cline & Associates, a Chicago-based company, with Eric Seifert sub-contracted to handle the acoustics, and Chicago’s Plus One Audio + Video provided the gear which includes a Sony PLX-41 LCD projector; a Yamaha M7CL32 CH digital console; EAW, Electro-Voice, and Atlas loudspeakers; Electro-Voice and Crown amplifiers; a Tascam RW2000 cassette deck; a Sennheiser assisted-listening system, and Clear-Com communications. Shure donated a wireless microphone system to the venue.