After the tragic loss of the Doris Duke Theatre to a fire in November 2020, Jacob’s Pillow today announces that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant —the largest received in Jacob’s Pillow’s 90-year history—towards the building of a new, reimagined Doris Duke Theatre, slated to open in 2025. The building will maintain the essence of the original Doris Duke Theatre while providing artists access to state-of-the-art technology to create 21st century works.
“Jacob’s Pillow has been an indispensable global leader and innovator in dance for nearly 100 years,” said Sam Gill, president and CEO of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “A new, world class, digitally-driven Doris Duke Theatre will ensure Jacob’s Pillow stays at the cutting-edge in the decades to come.”
The new theatre/studio is projected to cost $30 million, and will maintain the intimacy of the original theatre while at the same time providing a makerspace with a digital foundation for artists seeking to integrate various technologies into live performance or create works that are native to the digital realm. It will restore a second indoor theatre space for Jacob’s Pillow’s annual summer Dance Festival alongside the flagship Ted Shawn Theatre, and provide year-round studio space on the Pillow campus, in addition to the Perles Family Studio, which is home to the School at Jacob’s Pillow.
Details about the scope, scale, and features of the new theatre will be made available in 2023. The new theatre at Jacob’s Pillow will be one of the very few theatres in the world built specifically for dance; the Pillow’s historic Ted Shawn Theatre, opened in 1942, was the first performance space in the United States designed and built exclusively for dance.
The design team was selected through a competitive, international process led by Susanna Sirefman of Dovetail Design Strategists in 2021. Mecanoo, led by Creative Director and Founding Partner Francine Houben, is serving as the lead architect for the new building project, in partnership with New York-based architecture firm Marvel as the U.S.-based architect of record and landscape designer. Theatre, acoustic, and experience consultants Charcoalblue are supporting the project.
Francine Houben: “The distinct identity of Jacob’s Pillow comes from a rich history of both the site and the Festival. Our vision for the theatre explores a new dialogue rooted in connecting to the senses and the land to reimagine how the dancers and the audience connect to space. These synergies aim to strike a balance between Indigenous design principles and an adaptable performance space, which creates new conversations between performer and spectator.”
The reimagined Doris Duke Theatre will be an environmentally sustainable prototype for a 21st-century cultural facility that will remain relevant for future generations, able to honor the Pillow’s reputation as a stunning site for performances while creating a new landmark on the campus that upholds and celebrates the site's diverse history and responds to the values of the Pillow’s Indigenous inhabitants.