I recommend you check out the article "A New Space" by Tarin Chaplin in the Spring 2004 issue of Teaching Theatre at http://schooltheatre.org/community/resources/viewdocument/?DocumentKey=11a6d7f1-56b0-45ad-be95-af1bfeb948c0.
It does a good job of walking you through the whole process, complete with tips on choosing and working with a theater consultant, architect, contractors, etc.
On a personal note, the advice from other posts has been sound. A few things I would recommend from personal experience and my discussions with teachers at various stages of the process:
1. As a rough rule of thumb: try for a back stage area at least 3 times the size of your performance space, Wing and adjacent space will be the single biggest factor in determining the number, size, and functionality of movable set pieces. That could include a shop area if it is easily accessible to the performance area with doors large enough to provide access for set pieces the size you plan to move on and off stage.
2. Opt for the largest shop area you can get. You'll be happiest if it is at least the same size as your performance space,
3. Max out on storage space. Emphasize that the more space you have, the more platforms, flats, costumes, etc., you can save and recycle or re-purpose. That will save money in lumber and materials (or off-site storage space and transportation fees) as the program grows. If you have enough space, you may also be able to rent pieces to other groups, providing an additional revenue stream.
4. Provide backstage accessible restrooms in the theater area as well as sinks in the dressing rooms.
5. A janitor's closet is not
sufficient for the clean-up needs of a painting crew. It's best to equip this area as you would for a large art classroom with several sinks, spray nozzles, and special "clay" filters for the drains, drying and storage areas for brushes and rollers, etc.
6. Administrators tend to love beautiful hardwood floors, because they look nice at school presentations and remind them of basketball ;-). Insist on practical flooring that is a) conducive to dancing (not concrete), b), paint-able according to the needs/design of each production, c. has enough space below it to provide access to the performance space from below (trap doors, etc.), and in-floor effects like special lighting and dry-ice fog.
7. Design the house/seating with both acoustics AND sight lines in mind. Good acoustics will save time, money, and sanity for your sound designers and crew.
8. Pay attention to the HVAC design in your theater. Experienced theater architects and designers should be able to keep the performers comfortable under the stage lights without freezing those in the house and dressing rooms, and you should be able to accomplish reasonable theatrical silence even if the HVAC system is working full force.
9. Be sure you have easy access to the outside for loading in and out and to sufficient dumpster/recycling space.
9. Don't skimp on ventilation in the dressing rooms. They have unique challenges in terms of managing heat and....freshness.
Hope this helps!
Educational Theatre Association
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