Years after converting the big screen into the big stage, the Erie Playhouse's theatre was due for another makeover.
Home to one of the oldest and largest community theatres in the country, the Erie Playhouse was looking to upgrade their facilities. The group turned Erie’s Strand Theatre, a 12,000-square-foot former Warner Brothers movie house built in 1947, into their permanent production space back in 1983. Heading into their 101st season, the Playhouse was interested in an upgrade.
The original Strand stage suited the needs of a 1940s movie theatre, but did not provide the type of space or flexibility needed for modern live theatrical and musical productions. After 34 years in the facility and having just finished their 100th season, the Playhouse had outgrown their limited stage area. Not wanting to interrupt their production schedule, the organization needed consultants that could renovate their theatre during their brief offseason.
The Erie Playhouse turned to Matczak Architects and Urban Engineers for assistance. The firms started an ambitious design schedule, for what is now known as the LECOM Stage at the Playhouse, to ensure the necessary renovations to modernize the theatre were incorporated. Construction staff worked in multiple shifts over a three-month period once design was complete to remove the old slab-on-grade stage and excavate the space underneath it to make a new green room and orchestra pit. Urban designed a new cantilever stage over the green room that will work with an orchestra pit-lift to allow for a larger stage surface when the pit is not in use. The new proscenium structure and stage rigging with LED lighting completed the upgrades to the stage area. The theatre renovations improved the acoustics and lighting, giving the audience a better experience.
“By strengthening and renewing our facility, we ensure that our volunteers and staff have a safe and modern space to work in that will continue to be here for many years.” -Richard Davis, Erie Playhouse’s producing director
The Playhouse’s 101st season began with a rejuvenated spirit. The organization chose to open its season in the new space with Mamma Mia!, a musical production that utilized a full orchestra to inaugurate the new orchestra pit and stage. The theatre and its amenities are now open for the Erie community, including Youtheatre classes and future shows for all to enjoy!