Director, Architectural Acoustics Group
The Umbrella Arts Center is a community art, theatre, and dance organization in Concord, MA. For nearly 40 years, it has occupied the former Emerson School, a stately 1929 building. In Fall 2019, the center reopened after a major renovation and addition (designed by OMR Architects, with theatre consultant Don Hirsch), the first major update in the building’s history.
A new, accessible at-grade entrance opens into a generous multi-chambered lobby and art exhibit space. To the left and right are the existing building wings, which house beautifully renovated artist studios and classrooms. Straight ahead is the new performing arts addition, including a 300-seat proscenium theater, a smaller black box theater, dance studio, maker spaces, and administrative offices.
Both theaters are quiet, acoustically supportive spaces, where actors’ every vocal gesture can be heard clearly and easily. Sound and video systems are both powerful and accessible to a range of users.
A remarkable feature of the MainStage theater is the orchestra room located under the rear seating rows. At the client’s request, musical theatre performances place the musicians not in an orchestra pit within the theater, but in a separate room that is acoustically isolated and connected electronically by microphones, loudspeakers, cameras, and video monitors. This allows the show’s artistic and technical staff to control the balance between musicians and singers, and keeps the audience close to the stage.