Reinventing the Globe: A Shakespearean Theater for the 21st Century
National Building Museum
David Rockwell (founder/ceo), Barry Richards (principal in charge), Bob Stern, Rob Bissinger, Brian Drucker, Timo Kuhn, Jerry Sabatini, Vanessa Humes
As part of Washington, DC’s citywide Shakespeare Festival, the National Building Museum presented Reinventing the Globe: A Shakespearean Theater for the 21st Century, an exhibition conceived to encourage a reconsideration of the spaces designed to accommodate dramatic performances.
Innovative architects and set designers were commissioned to create hypothetical Shakespearean theaters for the 21st century. The exhibition includes drawings, models, and computer renderings of the proposed projects, plus interpretive models, drawings, and photographs of the first and second Globe theaters and other Shakespearean theaters over the past 400 years.
In reimagining the Globe, Rockwell Group painted a space that celebrates the ephemeral experience of live theater by breaking down the formality of a structured theatrical environment, opening it up to the sky and the surrounding landscape. It immerses the audience in the experience, allowing spectators to become active influencers and the theater itself to become a performer.
The new Globe replaces the conventional theater house with an embracing structure comprising a mutable, permeable membrane. Pivoting scrims suitable for projection adorn the structure. The theater bears some resemblance to the original Globe, but with significant modifications. The layering of social classes implicit in the tiered seating of the old Globe, for example, is acknowledged and refuted. The “pit” becomes the prime location, though theatergoers can climb the tiers to see or be seen.
Spaces are layered to accommodate the widest possible range of interactions, at a range of scales, in a variety of settings. Smaller, “fringe” versions of the structure could be placed in settings as diverse as a classroom, a park, or a large festival. Rockwell presented the structure in a festival setting, using modules built from a kit of scaffolding parts. This theater could be assembled anywhere around the world. Each module has three tiers, with an open lower level so that spectators can flow freely into the “mosh pit” stage area. The audience can also migrate to the exterior balcony and watch the overall festival, where many smaller fringe stages create a whole new level of interactive spectacle.
“Shakespeare sees his son’s ghost in America. Utopia comes true. Fabulous alchemy in the park.” “An integrated virtual environment of light and image. A fun house for theater. Build it and they shall come.”