Acentech’s Studio A on the Roll, Consults on New Performing Arts Projects

Miller Center

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Acentech’s Studio A, a specialized acoustics, audiovisual systems design, and vibration consulting group for the performing arts, announced that it is providing consulting and design services for six new performing arts projects around the country.

The new projects include Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater, Little Rock, Arkansas; Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Hall, Lexington, Massachusetts; Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Miller Center, Lynchburg, Virginia; Phillips Exeter Academy Center for Theater and Dance, Exeter, New Hampshire; and Salem State University Mainstage Theatre, Salem, Massachusetts. Studio A provides essential expertise in acoustics, audiovisual systems, and noise and vibration control to performing arts projects worldwide.

Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater, Little Rock, Arkansas
In conjunction with AMR Architects, Studio A provided acoustics consulting services for the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in the Arcade Building on the main library campus in Little Rock’s River Market district. The 325-seat state-of-the-art auditorium and performance space was designed as a multi-purpose venue for films, music performances, plays, readings, lectures, speakers, and children’s activities. Equipped with a state-of-the-art projection system for films and a separate sound system for spoken word and music, the theater received the highest rating from the Digital Cinema Institute.

Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Hall, Lexington, Massachusetts
Studio A worked with Mills Whitaker Architects to design the renovation of Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, Mass. Battin Hall, an 820-seat performance space that is home to the Lexington Symphony, has long been well-regarded for classical music, but the space did not work as well for town meeting, pop music, and other non-classical events. It also suffered from excessive mechanical noise. As part of the renovation and historic preservation effort, Studio A specified retractable sound-absorbing banners to improve the acoustics for non-classical events, and worked with the architect and mechanical engineer to design a quiet mechanical system that included a new relocated chiller and sound-isolated HVAC units. To better meet the needs for audio playback and speech events, particularly during town meetings and the Cary Lecture Series, Studio A designed a new sound system with goals for high levels of speech intelligibility and audio clarity. Studio A also designed audiovisual presentation systems and recommended acoustical improvements to meeting rooms, lobbies, a small theater space beneath Battin Hall, and other spaces in the building.

One fascinating aspect of Studio A’s work included in situ measurements of the acoustical properties of a historic painted paper over horsehair filler that was located in parts of the Battin Hall ceiling. As part of the renovation, that material was removed and replaced with a specialty ceiling finish designed to replicate the acoustical properties of the original.

Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, situated in historic Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Penn., is one of the nation’s leading outdoor summer performing arts venues, with a total seating capacity of approximately 14,000. Since 1976, the Mann Center has been the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Working with MGA Partners Architects, Studio A consulted on issues related to noise and vibration, including isolating and locating the remote-controlled high-definition cameras to protect them from vibration emanating from the venue. Studio A also consulted on the outdoor audiovisual system, including four outdoor-rated line-arrays that provide sound reinforcement to the lawn, two large LED displays for the outside façade to provide video to the lawn area, and infrastructure for future technology. Consultants provided support of acoustics concerns within the shed to enhance the natural sound and support for the orchestra.

Miller Center
Miller Center

The Miller Center, Lynchburg, Virginia
The newly renovated Miller Center in Lynchburg, Virginia opened in January 2015 as a neighborhood center for the arts. The building was originally built as an elementary school in 1911, and in recent decades has been home to the City of Lynchburg’s Parks and Recreation Department. H&A Architects & Engineers restored the old auditorium as a 186-seat theater for plays, dance, music, and movies. The building also houses several flexible dance and movement studios in three old classroom spaces, as well as offices for department staff.

With extensive experience working on historic preservation projects, Studio A provided acoustics and mechanical system noise control consulting and extensive acoustical modeling for the project. The goal was to preserve the charm of the building while restoring and modernizing the space for new functions. Studio A designed a bright, live sound in the theater while avoiding excessive reverberation and potentially problematic sound reflections. Working closely with the mechanical engineer also resulted in the design of a very quiet ductwork layout suitable for performances within the tight theater. Studio A further recommended sound isolation for the upstage bay window to control incoming noise from the adjacent street and parking lot, as well as the outdoor chiller near the theater. The extensive renovations resulted in a beautiful, modern and acoustically appropriate space.

Phillips Exeter Academy Center for Theater and Dance, Exeter, New Hampshire
Studio A was selected to provide acoustics and audiovisual design consulting services for Phillips Exeter Academy’s new Center for Theater and Dance. Currently in design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects|Partners, the 56,000 SF center will include three performance spaces, two large rehearsal spaces, technical support spaces, dressing and changing rooms, classrooms, offices, and other support spaces. The building, which is expected to strengthen and broaden student involvement in the performing arts, features a 350-seat proscenium theater with orchestra pit, a 149-seat apron stage theater, and a dance performance studio with bleacher-style seating.

Studio A’s design recommendations will address room shaping and finishes, wall and floor-ceiling assemblies, mechanical system layout and noise control features, and mechanical equipment vibration isolation. The integration of audiovisual systems will include video projection and flat screen display, speech reinforcement and playback audio, stage production communication, ADA-compliant assistive listening, and video and audio archival recording and streaming. The project is expected to be complete in spring 2018.

Salem State University Mainstage Theatre, Salem, Massachusetts
Studio A is providing acoustics and audiovisual systems consulting for the renovation of the Mainstage Theatre at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. Leers Weinzapfel Associates designed a complete remodel of the Mainstage Theatre building, which will be renamed the Sophia Gordon Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. The project involves reducing theatre capacity from 740 to 450 seats to provide a more intimate setting and improved sightlines that will better serve the university and Boston’s Greater North Shore of Boston community.

The Mainstage Theatre building comprises three stories: a basement with a scene shop, faculty offices, dressing room, green room, and a light lab; the main floor with stage, audience chamber, lobbies, conference room, control room, and sound mixing space; and a second floor with large rehearsal space, computer lab, conference room, and lobby. Studio A is providing acoustics consulting on room shaping and finishes, seating, speech intelligibility, and mechanical system noise and vibration control. The firm also designed audiovisual systems for the facility, including speech reinforcement, special effects, music playback, and a large screen display system.