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University of Missouri – Kansas City – Helen Spencer Theatre

Kansas City, Missouri

Team

Helix, Architect
Peerbolte Creative, Theater Consultant

Project Description

The Spencer Theatre is a 500 seat drama theatre in the 1977 Olson PAC, home to the UMKC theatre department and the Kansas City Rep theatre company. This proscenium theatre has a demountable semi-thrust forestage that the users reconfigure for almost every production, a challenge for the acoustics design.

The team’s task was to fix lighting positions that were severely restricted by acoustic clouds below the catwalks; to improve speech clarity, especially at several dead spots; and to encourage a greater sense of audience engagement with performances. The client also wanted a larger, more inviting lobby with improved amenities.

KA drew on computer modeling and in situ testing to identify echo paths that caused the dead spots and to investigate the uneven supportive reflections from the old clouds. With computer modeling we designed a radically different set of clouds, above the lights and between the catwalks. They provide evenly distributed support and have eliminated confusing echoes while opening up the catwalk lighting positions. New wall treatments that mix different proportions of wood and glass fiber let audiences hear their own sound while maintaining speech clarity.

A small addition to the lobby houses new toilets and reception spaces, naturally isolated from the theatre by a construction joint. KA worked with the mechanical engineers to control lobby noise and protect the theatre from HVAC noise.

photos by www.mrobinsonphoto.com

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