Here Arts Center: Happy to Be Here

The downtown theater readies its pricey makeover

On a recent weekday afternoon, 40-odd people bustled in and around the Here Arts Center. Interns scraped away at the building's façade while sanders sanded, tilers tiled, and painters painted. Drills, pop songs, and hammers swirled in a cheerful cacophony. Though the Soho space churned with dust and detritus, everyone seemed confident that Here would soon celebrate its re-opening.

In 2005, Here artistic director Kristin Marting led a successful campaign to purchase the space that the theater had rented for 12 years. Buying the space was a dream fulfilled, but it had its drawbacks, too: Here could afford only a portion of its former area, surrendering its popular café, the ticketing area, a staircase, and one of its three theaters. For two and a half years, this smaller Here featured an awkward temporary layout that forced audiences to detour back onto the street to get to its bathrooms or downstairs theater. Last January, the center shut down to carry out a nearly $3 million renovation.

Now, after nearly six months, the new Here is set to open, with a café and proper staircase between theaters. The first show will be Aya Ogawa's oph3lia, beginning June 11. Unheard of for New York, the construction has apparently come in on time and on budget. (A few planned improvements, like the addition of a large sign and removal of a column, have been postponed.) Despite new light, sound, and video equipment, Marting and her associates seem most excited about more mundane additions: On a tour of the space, she raves about the bathrooms ("We'll have real stalls!") and dressing rooms ("Real counters!").

Here's artistic director Kristin Marting in the reno's homestretch
Alana Cundy
Here's artistic director Kristin Marting in the reno's homestretch

Here's resident artists seem to have similar feelings: Puppeteer Basil Twist is most excited about the "new seats!" Twist, who first made a splash with Symphonie Fantastique at Here, will return June 12 to debut Arias With a Twist. Seated in the downstairs theater surrounded by alien heads, fishnet stockings, and silk curtains, Twist describes the show as a response to collaborator Joey Arias's long-running Cirque du Soleil show, Zumanity: "Joey was off in Vegas doing this incredible $100 million production," says Twist. "And I felt, 'I could do that'—with a millionth of the budget, and a millionth of the space." The summer season will continue with Taylor Mac's The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac (starting July 8) and The Young Ladies Of . . . (starting July 9)—two gleefully messy shows to dirty up Here's newly clean environs.

 
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