Theater landscape to be dramatically different

A model of Meany Hall with a new brick pattern.

Alumni looking for three landmark theaters on campus will be in for a shock starting this summer. One will be moved, another will be rebricked and a third may be either demolished or shipped to Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.

The most spectacular change comes on June 22, when the Penthouse Theatre moves from its location at 15th Avenue N.E. and N.E. Pacific Street to the site of the N-5 parking lot west of Hansee Hall.

The Penthouse must move to make way for a $65-million physics and astronomy building to be built on the present site of the theater.

The Penthouse will be cut into three pieces. One wing will be demolished. The other two pieces will be loaded on flatbed trucks and moved along 15th Avenue to the new location. Because of the height of the structure, Metro must remove trolley lines along 15th Avenue. The pedestrian overpass linking the campus with Schmitz Hall also blocks the theater’s passage. A crane will lift it up and temporarily put it on a flatbed truck.

At the new site the Penthouse will be put back together with a new wing, a full basement and extra space for dressing rooms and rehearsals. Drama officials expect the renovated facility to open in the spring of 1992. The cost of the move and renovation is about $3 million.

Meanwhile, the University is planning a “reskinning” of Meany Hall’s brick exterior to solve the building’s water leakage and brick deterioration problems. While from the outside Meany Hall looks like a brick building, its actual structure is made of reinforced concrete, with the bricks merely a decorative veneer.

The project requires removing the existing masonry and replacing it with a new, patterned brick exterior. The entire structure will be reroofed and contractors will replace sloping roof sections with metal roofing that matches the color of pewter.

The cost of construction will be about $5.2 million. If approved, the project would probably begin in January and last a year, with resurfacing proceeding one side at a time. Performances will not be affected during construction.

The fate of another campus performance space, the Showboat Theatre, will be decided sometime this summer. Built in the late 1930s on the shoreline of Portage Bay, the structure no longer meets fire and safety regulations. It has been closed since January 1985 and UW officials say the cost of restoration far exceeds the cost of removal.

While built in the style of a Mississippi riverboat, the structure rests on pilings and does not float. Drama alumni and others have established the Showboat Theatre Foundation to try to save the structure. They hope to move the theater to a site in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.

Connie Miller, UW director of capital projects, says the regents are scheduled to make a final decision on whether to restore, remove or relocate the theater sometime this summer. For more information about the Showboat Theatre Foundation, contact Shirley Peterson at 2100 N.E. Ravenna Blvd., Seattle, WA 98105; phone (206) 525-2881.