Sunday, January 20, 2008

Imagine a Re-Imagined Hanna Theatre

The Hanna in the 1940s
The Hanna Theatre is undergoing an extensive renovation, or “re-imagining," to create a new theatre experience in Cleveland, and is being touted as a theatre unlike any other in the country.

Some background on the theatre:

It was designed by Charles Platt, built by John Gill & Sons, and decorated by Faustino Sampietro.

It first opened on March 29, 1921, and was dedicated it to the memory of Senator Marcus Alonzo Hanna, who was also the former owner of the Euclid Avenue Opera House.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
“The first production at the 1,535-seat Hanna Theater was a presentation of The Prince and the Pauper. In ensuing years, it hosted a number of major touring Broadway shows and an occasional pre-Broadway tryout, notably the world premiere of Maxwell Anderson's High Tor on 30 Dec. 1936. Weathering the Depression, it became the only "road theater" in the country that had been in operation for 50 or more consecutive years. Milton Krantz became general manager of the Hanna in 1941, known as "Mr. First-Nighter" for his tradition of walking up the aisles and shaking hands with people he knew. After 42 years and 1,000 first nights, Krantz retired in 1983. Owned by the T. W. Grogan Co. since 1958, the Hanna was eclipsed in the 1980s by the revitalization of PLAYHOUSE SQUARE. It went dark in 1989. A renovation effort spearheaded by T. W. Grogan Co. and Majestic Urban Revivals, Inc., was initiated in late 1993. Led by Ray K. Shepardson, a founder and former executive director of the Playhouse Square Assn., a $2 million restoration of the facility converted the theater into a multi-tiered, cabaret-style showplace. The reopening of the Hanna was planned for March 1996, the theater's 75th anniversary."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that this latest renovation may cost around $20 million and could be completed as early as this fall.

The Plain Dealer also reports:
“The Hanna will keep its distinctive limestone facade on East 14th Street, around the corner from Playhouse Square's other historic venues on Euclid Avenue, and its neoclassical auditorium.

But within those walls, the Cleveland architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky will create an "extraordinary" venue, architect Paul Westlake said.

The current plans would integrate the lobby, the bar and the performance space into one.

The architects are "breaking down the boundaries . . . between the stage, the audience and the social experience of the lobby," said Westlake. "It's a continuum. It's all one zone."

His firm's work on four other theaters in Playhouse Square helped make it one of the leading theater-architecture firms in the country.

"But we've never done anything like this," said Westlake, who called the project "an architectural experiment, but also a social experiment" that could make the Hanna unique among American theaters.

The new Hanna will have around 500 seats (down from the original 1,400) on steep inclines arranged on three sides of a "thrust" stage, with no seat farther than 11 rows from the actors.

The theater also could operate as a "traditional" proscenium theater, Fee said -- and, depending on how much money Great Lakes and Playhouse Square can raise, it could be outfitted with technological advances far beyond anything else in the region. "

It sounds like the Hanna renovation will be bringing an exciting theatre experience to Cleveland. It's great to see this landmark restored and improved to keep the theatre alive - and relevant - in Cleveland for many years to come.

If you’d like to see additional information, a link to WKYC’s website, which has current pictures of the project, plus a video of a news story on the subject can be found here.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information,

No comments: