The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
In late 1990, the need to secure a viable and lasting home for the Company was recognized.
The 88-year old Bowne Theatre had become a serious impediment to artistic and organizational success. Recognizing also the immense benefits of a partnership between a professional arts institution and an academic institution of higher education, Theatre management set out to create a lasting and solid partnership with Drew University.
In June of 1998, the Theatre raised the curtain on its 36th season in the newest Shakespeare theatre on the East Coast -- the state-of-the-art F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre at Drew University, on the site of the old Bowne Theatre.
Briefly, the new theatre includes three levels (approximately 22,000 square feet), all of which is fully accessible to people with disabilities -- both audiences and Theatre employees alike. There are two entrances to the building, both of which are ramped for people using wheelchairs, and elevators offer access to all public spaces. A second elevator has been installed just off stage left, as well as from the dressing rooms to the stage. A total of six wheelchair positions are available in the theatre, and Braille signage appears throughout the building wherever public signs are posted.
Features of the new house include:
- An intimate theatre with 308 seats, excellent sight-lines to the stage and no seat more than 32 feet from the stage
- A grand lobby, featuring two dramatic walls of glass casting a glow on theatre evenings
- Exhibition space for artwork from this region's prestigious artists in the James R. Gillan Petite Promenade
- The Sir John Gielgud Green Room for actors
- State-of-the-art technical features, including full lighting and sound systems and acoustic design
- Outdoor patio space where patrons relax and socialize before and after performances
- The intimate Prudential Treehouse, a private lounge suitable for meetings and entertaining patrons, clients and friends
- New capabilities on and behind the stage: new floor traps, catwalks, flyspace and wings
- "The Studio", a new rehearsal space
- Full accessibility with basement-to-balcony elevators
- Wheelchair seating in both the orchestra and balcony
- A backstage lift from dressing rooms to the stage, for actors with physical disabilities
- An infrared listening system for the hearing impaired