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Costs for building a black box theatre

  • 1.  Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 11-07-2019 11:12
    Folks:  I'm in a rural community where the high school auditorium is the only place in town for events.  A bond was just passed that will add on an extension to the school.  While the new building is probably designated for the Ag. Sciences, I'd like to create a proposal for converting old classrooms into a black box theatre.  Has anyone done this in their district?  Even if you haven't, any insight into how I could go about this is appreciated since my tech background is pretty limited.  Thanks!

    Dr. Beth Anderson
    Hermiston High School
    Language Arts Teacher
    Room 250
    Phone:  (541) 667-6100 Ext. 20546


  • 2.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 11-08-2019 12:44
    There was a post earlier this year similar to this that may have some info...? 

    Black Box Wish List

    And another one last year:

    seeking funding for Black Box Theatre



    ------------------------------
    Beth Rand, EBMS
    Educational Lighting Designer
    School Theatre Operations Coach

    Support for educational tech theatre at: www.Patreon.com/theSTAGEteam.

    NEW:
    www.theSTAGEteam.org
    Grants for your technicians/artists

    www.PRESETT.org
    Stage Lighting services
    Online tech theatre courses
    Tech theatre books

    beth@PRESETT.org
    Westminster, CO
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 11-08-2019 15:44
    My first thought was wondering what your ceiling structure might be. Flimsy framing for ceiling panels or substantial structure to hang lights? Working budget?

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    Ed Koffenberger
    Director of Spiritual Life
    New Bern NC
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  • 4.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 29 days ago
    We built a 1,600 sq ft 80 seat combination black box theater and dance studio about 10 years ago. Before and after photos below as well as a production photo from a summer production of a workshop of a new musical based on Midsummer Night's Dream.

    I believe the budget for fit-up of the room (including some required fire marshall alterations was about $20,000 Thet included the cost of adding a mezzanine for use as a light/sound booth and green room. Sound and lighting gear was sourced mostly from eBay and cost about $8,000. We have staged everything from full musicals to cabaret-style performances (think 54 Below). In our case, we also had to spend about another $15,000 for mirrors and a sprung floor.

    The approach I'd take is to first assess what limitations the space, when finished, will enforce on you. That should help define just how ambitious a project you could undertake. For example, if the finished height of the space can't be at least 15 feet or so, it's going to be challenging to hang a decent lighting plot. If the dimensions are such that it's going to be less square and more broad yet shallow, you will have little flexibility in staging and audience placement.

    If you live near someplace where there's a USITT member school, IATSE Local presence or good theatrical supply house, you will be able to find someone that might be willing to provide some advice specific to your situation. The best source would be a member of American Society of Theater Consultants but depending on your potential budget and scope is probably unreasonable. Be cautious about relying on conventional school architects alone as they often have limited knowledge. If they can't tell you why a black box should be flat black rather than semigloss, that's a good barometer.

    Hope this helps a little!



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    Tim Barden
    Managing Director
    Vermont Musical Theatre Academy
    South Burlington VT
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  • 5.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 28 days ago
    One of the major considerations you'll have to look into is the maximum occupancy requirements.  Your school district can help you with this, and you may find that the limits are to low for the project to retrofit a classroom to be practical.  Years ago, I was a consultant for a school district that wanted to convert an historic library to a performance space and we found that the occupancy rates were simply to low to make the project viable.

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    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC
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  • 6.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 26 days ago
    This is beautiful!. That background, what are those lights?

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    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School
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  • 7.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 29 days ago

    Another good source for lighting is also https://www.usedlighting.com/



    ------------------------------
    Beth Rand, EBMS
    Educational Lighting Designer
    School Theatre Operations Coach

    Support for educational tech theatre at: www.Patreon.com/theSTAGEteam.

    NEW:
    www.theSTAGEteam.org
    Grants for your technicians/artists

    www.PRESETT.org
    Stage Lighting services
    Online tech theatre courses
    Tech theatre books

    beth@PRESETT.org
    Westminster, CO
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 27 days ago

    Cost vary widely based upon a lot of factors. This is where an Architect and Theatre Consultant can be very helpful.  You don't have to hire them for a full-blown design, you can just hire them for a feasabilty study which should answer most of your questions.  From there you will have sufficient information to develop a proposal for your school board to consider for funding the actual design and construction.

    The questions are many, but to get started you have to determine if the building can support the task:

    • Structural capacity of the roof. (pipe battens, walk-on grids, lights, drapes, etc. all have significant weight)
    • Electrical capacity of the building  / building wing (will additional power service be needed?)
    • Fire Rating of the existing walls, roof, and doors.
    • Will the floor be left just solid concrete or will a sprung stage floor be installed? Will there be any dancing on the floor? (For the sake of the performers:  PLEASE have a sprung floor!)
    • Does there need to be any additional egress doors added? (A fire code requirement)
    • Do you need to open-up a wall and install a loading door from a scenery shop? (do you need to build a storage & scenery construction space?)
    • For safety considerations, will it have a ladder accessed pipe grid, catwalk accessed light pipes, or a walk-on wire tension grid?
    • Does the existing space have sufficient air conditioning?  Adding lights (even if they are LED) adds heat, and so does an audience.  If the existing HVAC system is there, is it noisy?  Are the air ducts sufficintly high that the lighting grid / catwalks / walk-on tension grid can be installed below it and still leave a tall enough performance space?  It may be necessary to install an completely new HVAC system.
    • Will you need Dressing Rooms?  Do they need showers, lockers, sinks, etc.?
    • Will you need make-up space (either in each Dressing Room, or in a common shared space?)
    • Will you need a costume storage room? (requires special HVAC).
    • Will you need a place to sew, fit, wash, and iron costumes?
    • Will you have fixed seating?  Pull-out Bleacher Seating?  Portable seats on platforms?  Or just portable seats?  Where will you store them when they are not in use?
    • How large of an audience capacity do you want / need?  How large of an acting space do you want / need?
    • Are there any adjacent rooms that will cause noise disturbance issues (gymnasiums, band halls, choral rooms, elevator machinery rooms, etc.)?  This will affect walls, doors, and other interstitial spaces.
    • Are there any adjacent spaces that the Theatre, set construction, rehearsal, and set demolition (strike) activities will disturb?  This will affect walls, doors, and other interstitial spaces.
    Also, be aware that most Architects DO NOT UNDERSTAND THEATRE AT ALL.  This is why you need an experienced Consultant that can address sound, acoustics, noise control, lighting, rigging, video, drapes, scenery shops, costume shops, control booths, seating, platforms, floors, dressing rooms, make-up rooms, intercoms, etc.  They have to design all of these system so they are not in conflict with each-other or the rest of the building.  This takes special knowledge.  Mechanical and Electrical engineers if left to 'do their thing' without any guidance, will design a gymnasium for you that is painted black, not a theatre.  Be very careful what you ask for -- you just might get it!

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    Erich Friend
    Theatre Consultant
    Teqniqal Systems
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  • 9.  RE: Costs for building a black box theatre

    Posted 26 days ago
    Edited by George Ledo 26 days ago
    Just to add my two cents to what Erich said...

    I spent fifteen years in the architectural field, mostly working on large corporate and government projects, along with a few fine arts centers, and I can tell you from experience that most architects do not understand the technicalities of the functions of the spaces they design. Architects are trained in a lot of skills required to create buildings, or to renovate buildings, but are not trained to really delve into what the occupants do. Most engineers fall into the same pattern for the same reason.

    And I can tell you, again from experience, how many times an architect or engineer will let the product vendors talk them into specifying what they sell.

    Sure there are exceptions to this, and probably notable ones, but take it from someone who's been there: architects and engineers are specialists in their fields, but first you need a specialist in your field, which is theatre. Get a qualified theatre consultant with solid experience in the type of space you want to have (i.e., not someone who consults on "home theaters" and maybe church halls). Look at their portfolio and talk to their clients.

    It's not an expense: it's an investment.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
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