The theatres on the campus of Emerson College in Boston have not only provided a new home for a variety of productions, but the new Tufte Performance and Production Center and the renovated Cutler Majestic Theatre have also spurred a flurry of redevelopment in Boston's theatre district. Apparently, not only if you build it, they will come, but they will come if you renovate as well.
The Cutler Majestic Theatre and the new Tufte Performance and Production Center are adjacent to one another and are a century apart in age. Opening in 1903, the Cutler has been in almost continuous use during its 100-year tenure as a popular venue for many of Boston's local performing arts groups. Although it had seen its fair share of renovations over the years, it was in a bit of a physical decline prior to its renovation.
Auerbach • Pollock • Friedlander advised on the planning, renovation and restoration, and system upgrades to architect Elkus/Manfredi. Kirkegaard Associates served as acoustics consultant. Leading the APF team were Steven Friedlander, principal-in-charge and Don Guyton, project manager. Part of APF's role was upgrading the Cutler's stage facilities to improve safety and the venue's technical systems, which will allow larger touring productions to perform at the facility. The second balcony, which was closed to the public in 1956, was modified to improve public safety. The newly opened, renovated Cutler increased seating capacity to 1,121 from 925.
Ripping out an HVAC duct on the back wall as well as an unstable upstage crossover catwalk expanded the usable stage area considerably, providing an added 5'. Safe access was added to galleries on both sides of the stage. A previously abandoned high fly gallery was re-installed, which provides an additional full stage depth pin rail. Due to limited wing space, a second locking rail was added to the lower fly floor so that fly cues could be executed above the stage and the full stage area could be clear for scenery storage.
Lighting system upgrades contracted by Barbizon were small in scale but provided a large impact on the operation of the existing system. The theatre had been using Entertainment Technology's portable distributed dimming equipment for their FOH dimming in conjunction with rental dimmers in the stage house on a per show basis. This system worked well for the users and they wanted to continue with a similar flexible FOH system, combined with rental dimmers on stage, so five 6× 1200W Entertainment Technology Dimmer Strips and six 6× 1200W Entertainment Technology Dimmer Packs were installed. The existing electrical infrastructure was kept and expanded.
A new Ethernet-based lighting control network that interfaces with DMX wiring at existing lighting positions was added. A new ETC Unison architectural house lighting dimming system was also added that has its own control system and communicates via the new lighting control network allowing direct control from the house console or touring console using either Ethernet or DMX.
Several new lighting positions were added: box booms at the second balcony that each hold six ETC 19° Source Fours®, two 36° Source Fours and two 26° Source Fours; a FOH pipe was added to the back wall of the balcony providing a 45° front light and holds 24 5° Source Fours; and a low angle balcony rail was added to the front of the mezzanine. New electrical services and network wiring were run to each of the new lighting positions for a distributed dimming scenario. Two followspot positions were added above the vomitory entrances in the second balcony and are home to two 1200W Robert Juliat Topaz followspots.
Four EAW AS690e speakers (two per side, left and right) were added for the re-opened second balcony and four EAW JF-80s were used as under balcony fill speakers to augment the existing sound system. Stage lip speakers are comprised of four EAW JF-60s (one was added to augment the existing system) are at the front of the stage to fill in below the existing main cluster (two EAW MQ-1364s).
Stage audio monitoring was added for the new dressing rooms, offices, and public spaces. Audio paging to the lobbies was added, as well as video monitoring for latecomer audience and back of house technical areas. The existing intercom system was enhanced to include new house control and followspot positions. A Williams Sound Personal PA Deluxe System 300 FM assistive listening system was added as a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.
Two new house mix positions were created, one on the cross aisle and another at the rear of the orchestra seating level. A 200A audio power company switch was also added to provide additional isolated sound system power.
The Cutler's renovation won the Boston Preservation Alliance 2003 Achievement Award, the League of Historic American Theater's annual Outstanding Theatre Restoration Award for 2004 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.