Members of the public and the media were invited to tour The Stage and Second Space at Santa Monica College’s Performing Arts Center on October 17. Under construction since 2005 at 11th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard on the site of a former public school, The Stage, a 499-seat theater, will open in May 2008. Second Space, a 99-seat theater, is completed and is currently presenting Under The Radar, a free series of performances that started on October 21.
For Dale Franzen, opera singer turned artistic director of The Stage and Second Space, the past 10 years have been dedicated to consulting with internationally acclaimed artists and theater administrators to develop a “global theater.” Speaking at the open house, Franzen said, “Our hope is to become a laboratory of creative spontaneity, where performing artists can nurture new work and collaborate in all performance disciplines, and where audiences of all ages and backgrounds are welcomed into a more intimate experience of the performing arts.”
Franzen offered three dimensions to the Performing Arts Center’s artistic vision: “Creative Collaboration, Community Commitment, and Putting the Artists at the Center of all we do.” Artistic advisors and collaborators include Lula Washington, Placido Domingo, Dustin Hoffman, Kent Nagano, Tom Hulce, and Jake Heggie.
SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang remarked, “Santa Monica College is a place for the community. The college was founded to provide service to the community…This place will nurture and incubate young artists.”
Remarking on the large number of cultural venues in Los Angeles County – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the two Getty facilities, Disney Concert Hall, and a refurbished Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, “Any county in the country would be thrilled just to have one!” Yaroslavsky acknowledged that The Stage and Second Space are the result of “the generosity of the people of Santa Monica and private donations…We will be the beneficiaries of the creative arts, this college, this theater, and the arts – a whole bigger than its parts.”
The construction of The Stage and Second Space has required a high degree of cooperation on the part of the project’s architect, contractor, building inspectors, consultants, the artistic director, and SMC construction administrators.
Contractor FTR International’s construction manager, Sam Khedraki, led a tour of The Stage showing visitors an impressive array of mechanical and electrical systems necessary to operate a state-of-the-art theater. The complexity of construction requires 3D models created by architect Renzo Zeccheto. For eight hours each day, a technician using an optical surveying system with an electronic measuring device and specialized computer software verifies all measurements with x, y, and z coordinates. The system verifies that steel stud framing inside the theater project is installed to within 1/10 of an inch tolerance.
Due to the exacting measurements required for steel stud framing, project contractor FTR contracted with Radius Track Corporation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Radius Track provided the steel stud framing for the Disney Concert Hall. The company’s unique Track Bender tool provides curved tracks and studs in less than a minute. Instead of cutting and strapping the steel by hand, drywall contractors can use Track Bender. Radius Track’s CEO Chuck Mears said, “Work on The Stage has been equal to the complexity of Disney Concert Hall even though it is a smaller structure.” Mears sees 3D modeling as a trend that is becoming more accepted.
FTR International’s Nizar Katbi, whose company has built over $1 billion in projects since 1984, said, “Building The Stage has been one of the most demanding projects FTR has ever done.” California Construction News has notified FTR that it will receive two awards for construction excellence for Higher Education and Performing Arts for its work on The Stage and Second Space.
Mike Stebbins, Project Manager for Renzo Zeccheto Architects (RZA), said RZA has been working with 12 consultants for The Stage and Second Space. One of the most important elements of the project will commence after construction is completed. Acoustician Chris Jaffe will “tune” acoustical reflectors in The Stage using 100 percent velvet velour curtains.
Architect Zeccheto said The Stage was “designed from the inside out.” A unique element of the theater is the use of automatically controlled windows at the theater’s main lobby which use Santa Monica’s cooling breezes in place of air conditioning. Zeccheto said he was inspired by the horseshoe shape design of an Italian opera house. The architect wants to allow the “creative directors to do the best they can imagine.”
SMC’s Performing Arts Center is a first- class facility that is destined to attract the talents of the entire Los Angeles creative community. When The Stage opens in May 2008, artistic director Dale Franzen, who chairs the Building Committee, Dustin Hoffman, and all those who gave of their money, time, and talent will have an opportunity to celebrate a major accomplishment.
The Stage was built at a cost of $45 million, financed with a $35 million bond measure passed by the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu in 2004, $5 million from other government agencies and from private donors, and a bond measure for Santa Monica improvements passed in 2002.
For information on Under the Radar, Second Space’s free series of performances, call 310.434.3414, or e-mail Stoeber_Denise@smc.edu. Reservations are required.
Mirror Contributing Writer Tony Morris is a former project manager for large-scale construction projects in Southern California.