First look: TheatreSquared makes final preparations inside new downtown theater complex

Photos: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The new TheatreSquared campus smells new.

And it should, considering the finishing touches are currently being applied to the brand-new, purpose-built theater complex on the southeast corner of Spring Street and West Avenue in Fayetteville. Slowly but surely, the $34 million project (a price that includes construction costs and an educational reserve fund) nears completion.

Several milestones have recently taken place for the new home of T2, where construction on the facility broke ground in June 2017. Theater staff members, still wearing hard hats at the time to access certain spots, moved in to their new offices this February. Funding for major portions of the project were announced in June. The facility hosted an introductory black tie gala in late June for important donors, and other visitors are now trickling in as well as the final preparation are made.

Before you go

The new TheatreSquared opens Aug. 8. Here are a few things you should know:

Box Office hours: 10-6 Monday-Friday, and 90 minutes before curtain on performance nights
The Commons hours: 8:30 a.m. to close Tuesday-Saturday and 11 to close on Sundays. On performance nights, The Commons is expected to stay open until “well after” the production ends, perhaps as late as 11 p.m.
Where: 477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville
Info or tickets: Call 479-777-7477 or visit theatre2.org

The Fayetteville Flyer was given a tour of the progress on July 11 in advance of two other upcoming milestones – the Aug. 13 opening of The Commons, the café/coffeeshop/bar/hangout on the first floor, and the Aug. 14 premiere of “Shakespeare in Love,” the company’s first show in the new space. Single tickets for that show are on sale now through the TheatreSquared box office. The box office, located on the first floor, is newly independent from that of the theater company’s former landlord/partner, the Walton Arts Center. The box office will be accepting walk-up customers in the new space on Aug. 8, the day the doors officially open to the public.

Beyond the distinct smell of ‘new’ which greets you as you walk inside, the 50,000-square-foot TheatreSquared building looks new – and fresh, well-designed and modern. It was designed via a partnership between Marvel Architects of New York City, who have designed several living spaces in the New York City area, and Charcoalblue, known for their work in theater and venue design. Local architecture firm Modus Studios stepped in to design custom furniture pieces, such as wooden benches made from trees felled to make way for construction.

Local is a distinct theme for the venue. Walls for the smaller of the two theater spaces, the 120-seat Spring Theatre, were made by pouring concrete into forms made of Arkansas pine, which give the walls a rippled, distinct appearance. The form boards, once cleaned, were then stained and added elsewhere to the walls. Locally sourced food will be served in The Commons, which is meant to serve as a daytime hangout even – or perhaps especially – on days when no shows are taking place in the theaters. Local beers will be served from the 16 taps in The Commons café, although some of the taps are reserved for wine and pre-made drinks.

Stairwell that leads upwards from The Commons / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The building features several nooks for viewing theater elements or the city of Fayetteville itself. A third-floor, open-air space between the full-sized rehearsal area and the administrative offices, with views of Spring Street below, is destined to be a popular spot. This area is accessible to the public, as are many of the spaces in the theater.

Community collaboration and community-making are critical to the design elements of the new space, said Joanna Sheehan Bell, Director of Marketing & Communications for the theater company. Illustrating this idea is the stairwell that leads upwards from The Commons. The wooden and concrete staircase features landing areas large enough for groups to sit on benches, and the entire area is wired for lights and sounds so that a performance could be staged right in middle of the open area bounded by the stairs and the glass walls that separate the area from the intersection of Spring and West.

The entire facility is capable of hosting such events, Sheehan Bell said.

The fully wired capability carries all guests beyond the first two foundational elements – local sourcing and community-making – and into the third and most obvious: theater performances. The new facility features two distinct theaters – the aforementioned Spring Theatre and the larger, mainstage West Theatre, which has seating for more than 250 guests.

The size and configuration of the shows will determine where they are staged. The one-woman show “Ann,” set for a run that begins in February, will be staged in the Spring Theatre. The more expansive first show, “Shakespeare in Love,” will be staged in the West Theatre. In terms of set pieces and cast requirements, it is the largest show T2 has ever attempted. Set pieces are currently being constructed in the scene shop located just behind the main stage. This is a major change for T2 – the former scene shop was in a warehouse in midtown Fayetteville and all pieces had to be transported and reassembled in the theater space.

The larger mainstage West Theatre / Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

In a move that was important to T2 staff members, the new design attempts to keep the intimacy of the former T2 space across the street from its new home. The first row of seating in West Theatre is actually closer than the first row of seating in the former space. And the farthest seating on the first level is one row back from what patrons would have previously experienced. Beyond the first-floor closeness, there are the options to have one or two more layers of seating. A second terrace of seating called the Circle Level wraps above and around the stage. When demand requires it, an additional third level of seating can be opened one floor above, although that’s not currently in the plan for “Shakespeare in Love.”

What is part of the plan is to make sure that Fayetteville, the surrounding region and the crowds that will surely venture in from elsewhere know what happens in the space. The two theaters can be seen from the street. The Commons can be seen from the street as well. Everything happens right in the middle of Fayetteville, and right in the public view. The rehearsal area shows that best, Sheehan Bell said. Unlike at many theaters, the rehearsal space can be viewed through the windows, in this case from the third-floor terrace.

“It’s not in some basement,” Sheehan Bell said. “It lets the city see inside. We want everyone to know we make it here.”

And starting Aug. 8, the public can finally see what has already been made.


More photos

Guest artist apartments


The Commons, cafe and bar





Scene Shop

Spring Theatre

West Theatre


This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.
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