The Future of
the Ted Shawn Theatre
We launched Dance We Must, the final phase of a campaign to fortify our future and to serve the imaginations of artists and audiences, and their needs today and tomorrow.
“Dance We Must” has been Jacob’s Pillow’s motto through all the many challenges of 2020: the global pandemic, a national reckoning with racism, the cancellation of our summer Festival (the first in our then-88 year history), and the tragic loss of our Doris Duke Theatre to a catastrophic fire as the year came to a close.
Everything we do—and the plans that we make—are in service to dance and dance artists. And it’s because of the support of thousands of donors that we can announce our plan for the future of the Pillow—for these artists and for our audiences, students, and community.
We have launched Dance We Must, the final phase of the Pillow’s Vision ’22 campaign to fortify our future and to serve the imaginations of artists and audiences, and their needs, today and tomorrow. This phase is anchored by the renovation of the Ted Shawn Theatre.
Learn more about the Campaign in this brief video from Executive & Artistic Director Pamela Tatge here.
The anchor of this campaign is the renovation of the Ted Shawn Theatre, built in 1942 as the first theater in American designed specifically for dance. This theater—the heart of the Pillow campus and a second home to so many artists and audiences—needs significant upgrades to support the dance community and the technical needs of the 21st century and provide adequate ventilation to be viable for audiences in a post-pandemic world.
The Ted Shawn Theatre exemplifies the rich history of dance in our nation. The future of this timbered haven for dance is deeply tied to the future of the Pillow and our field.
If you have ever enjoyed a performance in the Ted Shawn Theatre that brought you to your feet, encountered an artist you had never seen before, or simply want to see this national historic landmark thrive for another 90 years, we hope you will support us on this important journey to preserve and rejuvenate this mecca for dance.
This renovation represents the last chapter of Vision ’22, our five year strategic plan (initiated in 2017) that has included the creation of the Pillow Lab to support the development of new work; community engagement programs to bring dance to the communities that surround us; advancing our work in equity, diversity, inclusion, and access across the organization, and renewing and restoring campus facilities including the creation of the Perles Family Studio, the new and acclaimed home of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and our current expansion of Blake’s Barn, the renowned home of our Archives.
Ted Shawn Theatre Renovations
Built in 1942 by Joseph Franz, the Ted Shawn Theatre is America’s first performance space designed specifically for dance. Today’s audiences still experience the theater in much the same way as audiences did in the 1940s, with hand-hewn native spruce and pine beams, knotty pine siding, and bare wood floors setting the simple, spacious tone. The theatre was updated with an added mezzanine in 1959, expanded stage, dressing rooms, and loading dock in 1992, and new seats in 2013.
Over the decades, theatrical technology has transformed, accessibility standards have advanced, safety requirements are more rigorous, and audiences expect more comfort than a theatre built 78 years ago can provide. Upgrades are required in order to host performances in a post-COVID-19 world, beginning with our 90th anniversary Festival in 2022.
We broke ground on this $8 million project in January 2021, and are working with Boston-based Flansburgh Architects and Berkshire-based Allegrone Construction on the project. Plans for the Ted Shawn Theatre upgrades have been in the works since 2018.
Name a Seat
You may want to consider naming a seat in the Ted Shawn Theatre “In Memory Of” or “In Honor Of” someone you care about… or for you! This gift opportunity is available for $10,000. Please click the button below, or contact Marie Leahy at email@example.com to learn more.
Renovations will include:
New ventilation system and eco-friendly ice-chilled air cooling
New orchestra pit for live music, which can be replaced with seating when not in use
Enhanced accessibility for artists backstage and new accessible audience seating
Increased stage depth by 10 feet
New industry standard electrical system with three-phase power that can support incandescent fixtures as well as eco-friendly LED theatrical lighting
Expanded clearance height from 17 feet to 25 feet, allowing for more complex productions, rigging, and fly systems
New indoor artist crossover (replacing current outdoor crossover)
New lower level which will include new flexible dressing rooms, wardrobe spaces, an elevator, accessible ramp system, and a maintenance room to host the new air cooling and ventilation system
Vision ’22 is an ambitious strategic plan established in 2017 and led by Executive and Artistic Director Pamela Tatge. Vision ‘22 has fortified the Pillow’s existing programs and put new emphasis on three goals: Strengthening the Pillow’s artistic core, boosting civic leadership and community engagement, and renewing campus facilities. Of the $22 million needed to accomplish the goals of the Vision ‘22 plan, $2 million remains to be raised.
In addition to the Ted Shawn Theatre renovation, Vision ’22 includes:
- Expansion of year-round artistic and community programming, including the Pillow Lab, an artist residency program and incubator of new work
- Expanded convenings for dance administrators and practitioners from across the U.S. on topics ranging from dance for social change to the intersection of medicine and embodied movement practice
- Expansion of Blake’s Barn, home to the Jacob’s Pillow Archives, which will be complete by summer 2021
- The Perles Family Studio, a 7,300+ square foot year-round rehearsal and performance space—home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow—completed in 2017
- New four-season campus housing for more than 3 dozen interns and seasonal staff, completed in 2017
We are committed to strengthening inclusion, diversity, equity, and access; and advancing environmental sustainability. Read more about Vision ’22 here.
Your Questions Answered
Q: When will renovations be complete?
A: We aim to complete the Ted Shawn Theatre renovations before summer 2022, in time for our 90th anniversary Festival.
Q: Why are you choosing to renovate the Ted Shawn Theatre now?
A: Plans for a Ted Shawn Theatre renovations have been in the works since 2018. In early 2020 we considered pausing this effort, but realized that the theater would not be viable in a post-COVID-19 world. We must upgrade the ventilation and air cooling system in order to host artists and audiences in 2022.
Q: When will the Doris Duke Theatre be rebuilt?
A: We are currently making plans to build a new Doris Duke Theatre and will share those plans in Fall 2021.
Q: How will the experience for the audience be different?
A: The look and feel of the iconic Ted Shawn Theatre will remain. Most of the renovations will be focused on the backstage area and the performance space, to enhance services for artists and ensure safer conditions for technical staff and artists. The new air-cooling system will ensure a more pleasurable experience for audiences, a new orchestra pit will be added for live music, and accessible audience seating will be improved.
Q: How will the experience for the artist be different?
A: The artist experience will be drastically improved. The stage will be larger and the roof will be higher to accommodate larger sets and higher leaps and lifts. The dancer crossover will be moved indoors, dressing rooms will be expanded, and backstage areas will be accessible.
Q: How much does this renovation cost?
A: The total cost for the Ted Shawn Theatre renovation—within the overall Vision ’22 plan—is estimated at $8 million.
About this Campaign
Joan Hunter (chair), Christopher Jones, Jennie Kassanoff, Mark Leavitt, Sienna Patti
Special Thanks to the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Foundation
In 2019, the family of treasured Pillow Trustee member Wendy McCain stepped forward with an anchor gift. “I’m so grateful to Wendy and her daughter, Dr. Victoria Nosler, who serves on the Board of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Foundation and recommended a grant of $3 million towards the Ted Shawn Theatre renovation, in honor of her mother,” says Executive & Artistic Director Pamela Tatge, “and to the many tremendous and generous gifts that have made this 5-year project possible. We look forward to acknowledging the many donors who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to the future of Jacob’s Pillow through their significant support for Vision ’22 and Dance We Must.”
In March 2021, Jacob’s Pillow’s went public with its Dance We Must fundraising campaign, which began in 2017 with the goal of raising the final $2 million needed to accomplish the goals of the Vision ’22 plan by April 2022, in advance of the 90th anniversary Festival.