Theatre Architecture Research and Mapping Project


Historical NYC (2 days of readings, lectures on the development of NYC theater communities and institutions). Students understand how economics, immigration, urban development, transportation, and development of performance forms shaped the growth and change of theater in NYC.

Act I: The Living Archive (10% of final grade)

  1. Teams of 2 students each select neighborhood and theater

The United Palace Theater (Washington Heights)

The Public Theater (Village)

Apollo Theater (Harlem)

National Black Theater (Harlem)

Signature Theater (Midtown West)

Playwrights Horizons (Midtown West)

Joyce Theater (Chelsea)

Atlantic Theater (Chelsea)

Beacon Theater (Upper West Side)

Studio 54 (Columbus Circle)

Vivian Beaumont (Lincoln Center)

Claire Tow Theater (Lincoln Center)

Mitzi Newhouse (Lincoln Center)

Rattlestick Players (West Village)

Frederick Rose Hall (Columbus Circle)

Lucille Lortel (West Village)

The Cherry Lane (West Village)

Performance Space NY (East Village)

La Mama (East Village)

New York Theater Workshop (East Village)

Abron Arts Center (1915 Playhouse) (Lower East Side)

The Performing Garage/Wooster Group (SoHo)

St. Ann’s Warehouse (DUMBO)

Harvey Theater (BAM) (Ft. Greene)

The Gilman Opera House (BAM) (Ft. Greene)

Theatre for a New Audience, Polonsky Shakespeare Center (Ft. Greene)

Lowe’s Kings Theater (Flatbush)

St. George Theater (Staten Island)

2. Purchase tickets to production at the theater

3. Place-based (on site) research: attend production, sketch interiors and exteriors, and photograph exterior. Read the Playbill, talk to theater professionals, and make observations in order to answer the following:

What type of performance did you see? What was the name of the production? What was the genre ? Describe the set design. Was it realistic, minimalist, abstract, or (something else)?

What was the cost of the ticket?  Is the production commercial or nonprofit? What kinds of people were in the audience (age ranges, race/ethnicity, locals/tourists)? How many seats are in the house?

What is the program of the architecture of the theater? In other words, how did the design and dimensions of the stage and house inform your reception of the play? How did the design instruct audience members to move through the entire building (entrance, ticket booth, lobbies, concessions, etc.)? How large is the stage and does it permit a variety of presentation styles?

4. Post your answers to these questions (as a team) on OpenLab as an document attachment. Minimum 250 words.

Act II. Bibliography, images, sketches, ticket stub (15% of final grade)

Submit a research report that contains:
1. An annotated bibliography: three sources (minimum one published source) containing historical and architectural information. Each annotation should be one paragraph in length, minimum, and contain detailed historical information about the construction, architecture, resident company, and production history of the theater.

Why was the theater built? By whom? For whom? For what kinds of productions?

Who was the architect? What is the architectural style?

What is the history of the current resident company? What is the mission of the resident company or artistic director or producing director? What kinds of performances do they present, and for whom?

2. Photographic images to be used in presentation, with CC attributions.

3. Sketches

4. Ticket stub

Act III: Virtual Research and Presentation (20% of grade)

Scenario: You have been hired to conduct an analysis of the demographics, urban infrastructure and social conditions of a neighborhood for your theater. The producers want to be able to connect with the community and produce theater that attracts locals. What infrastructure supports access? What conditions are hurting or helping ticket sales?

1. GIS workshop 1: Provide your name, etc. here for ESRI access code to ArcGIS:

Click here for PowerPoint Presentation with GIS Terminology 

2. GIS workshop 2: Data mining:

Map Pluto 19.1

PLUTO Data Dictionary:

3. Access open-source data, collect GIS data that will help you understand your neighborhood:

Who are the locals? Demographics: education, income, ethnicity, age.

Are the people who populate the area residents, tourists, or workers?

How much (and which parts) of the area are zoned for commercial vs. residential?

Access: what kinds of public transportation are available? Parking?

Is crime a problem? What about noise pollution?

What types of commercial activity exists in the area: food service, entertainment, office space, retail space, etc.

4. Create a GIS map with layers that graphically display urban artifacts and conditions. (See Instructions for Adding Info to Google Spreadsheet)

5. Answer this question: What kinds of plays and entertainments would attract the local community?

You need to find data that is useful for understanding the neighborhood around your theater. The goal of your research project is to provide the theater with information that would help the theater understand the kinds of plays that would appeal to the surrounding community (approximately 10 block radius). For instance, if there is a relatively high density of families with children in the neighborhood you would consider offering children’s theater. But you would need to compare the population of children to the rest of New York to figure out if your particular neighborhood has more children than the average NYC neighborhood. If there is a high hispanic population (as compared to the rest of the city), then you could consider producing plays by Latin American playwrights. What is the education level (as compared to the rest of the city) of residents? If it is high, then the residents might be more interested in plays that are intellectually more challenging (Shakespeare, or other classics). We discussed the difference between profit and nonprofit in class. If you are a nonprofit, you have the flexibility to produce plays that do not need commercial success. This allows you some artistic freedom.

You need to find out what makes your particular neighborhood unique in terms of age, education, race, income, etc. (these are only a handful of factors that might inform your research). There is no specific formula or data set that will work for all the projects. Every neighborhood is unique so the data that you use for your research will also be unique.


The goal of the presentation is to present your answers to the research questions listed above, with special attention to the analysis of the data collected and what this data tells you about potential audiences for your theater. Each image must have an attribution and a Creative Commons license attached (when relevant). Sources for information should be listed in a bibliography at the end of the presentation (MLA format).


  1. Title Slide
  2. History: Architecture
  3. Interior: Stage arrangement and auditorium, floor plans
  4. The theater today: mission, productions
  5. Neighborhood map with relevant projection of data
  6. Neighborhood map with relevant projection of data
  7. Neighborhood map with relevant projection of data
  8. Conclusion (critical thinking): Based on your analysis of the data, what kinds of plays and entertainments would attract the local community? Make your recommendation.
  9. Bibliography