Theater-goers often exit a theater thinking about the impactful performances they saw on stage. But the physical set where the actors were working — the realistically rendered living room or the abstract, evocative sets that surrounded them — are a key ingredient in building the world of any play.
Pittsburgh’s City Theatre has always prioritized impressive set design. But with limited space, the process of building and storing their sets and props has long been inefficient.
Today, that all changed: City Theatre has unveiled a new place to build and store their sets — the $2.3 million Philip Chosky Production Center, on the South Side. It will make what’s currently a scattered workflow into a streamlined operation — and one that may benefit other theater companies, too.
“We’ve never had enough space to build the shows that we put on our stage,” City Theatre’s Managing Director James McNeel tells NEXTpittsburgh. With the expansion, the company can “put all those departments under one roof. We can assemble a whole set, get it painted and make sure it fits.”
The new complex includes a workroom where production staff can develop drawings and then begin building the set.
“We have a welding area, a stand-alone shop area, room for saws and carpentry,” says McNeel, and “the real advancement is for our paints — there’s a spray room.”
Smaller-scale items also get their due: The new space will have a dedicated area for building props and a props closet for storage.
“This will allow our artists to be even more creative,” says McNeel. “There’s an opportunity for us to build for other companies, as well.”
Designed by R3A Architecture, the 6,000-square-foot building formerly formerly housed a pipe rolling operation of the Walter Long Manufacturing Company.
The project also includes the creation of a public plaza connecting City Theatre’s campus on Bingham Street.
“This renovation has transformed this block on the South Side,” says McNeel. “We’ve redone our parking lot, repaired the sidewalks and added this public plaza at the center of our campus. It beautifies the neighborhood and makes this a more inviting environment when people come to see a show. It’s a really good looking building, and such an improvement on what was there before.”