To kick off our three-part series celebrating the launch of the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby, we sat down with Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor to talk about the exciting features you can expect in our new and improved space!
What spurred this renovation?
The New Victory team had a collective dream—to take our previously bland and uninviting lobbies and create a place that audiences would want to come with their families before the show or linger afterwards. We formed a lobby vision committee and we discussed all the things that could be improved.
The new space needed to reflect the vibrancy of the incredible programming that lives on our stage. Our goal was to make it warm, inviting, family friendly, but also sophisticated, smart and tailored to our programming needs. On top of all that, we wanted practical improvements, like better bathrooms, a more functional gift shop area and a more friendly and accessible space for audiences of all abilities. We wanted the public space to be a place that sparked the imagination—a joyous, spirited, bold place to create memories and collective experiences for families.
What aspect of the new lobby are you most excited about?
I think I'm most excited about the Jack and Lew Rudin Lobby (formerly named Lew's Lobby). Prior to our renovation, this space was a big, empty and dark two-room hall, with no place to sit and a dated ADA lift that was undersized and had difficulty accommodating modern wheelchairs. Our fabulous pre- and post-show activities were stuck in what felt like a back room. The room didn't match our needs, programs or personality. Now, the room has been completely transformed!
What were the top three amenities you knew that we needed to include?
First and foremost—we needed contemporary restrooms. Our old bathrooms were built before modern energy codes were updated and, to be frank, they were also cold and colorless. Now, our bathrooms are both colorful and state-of-the-art, with water-saving and auto-flushing sink and toilet fixtures, sanitary hand-drying and faucet facilities and stalls which are sensitive to privacy. We anticipate the new hand-dryers will reduce the number of paper towels our theater throws away each year to less than 10,000—previously we disposed of 250,000 paper towels every season. We know that the hand-dryers may be an adjustment for some families, so it was also important to us that they could be deactivated and replaced with towels for our Autism-Friendly performances. The fixtures allow for this and we're happy with the flexibility they provide us.
We also desperately needed more places to sit and a new food service area. With the installation of a beautifully designed cafe, plus several group seating areas, some creative undulating benches and flexible furniture pieces in the Jack & Lew Rudin Lobby, we now have a space where families can relax, eat, explore and spend wonderful quality time together.
Finally, we are thrilled about the removal of the old and undersized ADA lift in the Jack & Lew Rudin lobby. It has been replaced with a beautiful new ramp that frames the lobby and makes our public engagement activities easy to reach for patrons of all abilities.
What inspired the color scheme throughout the lobby spaces?
We actually struggled for many months to find the right look and feel for the lobby. It all came together when our architects Ariel Fausto and Nathan Rittgarn suggested the warm, white oak that can be seen throughout, and also the beautiful felt product line called FilzFelt. Paula Scher of Pentagram (who also designed our new logo) saw this material and was inspired to create the work of art that is now gracing our fabulous orchestra entry wall. With the invention of this original artwork, the color scheme of the lobby came to life. Suddenly the palette fell into place and the new lobby colors now create a warm, inviting and sophisticated environment that all New York families will love and feel at home in.
Can you take us through how you decided on the materials? We're not walking on carpet anymore!
Our architects, Ariel and Nathan, guided this process. There were weeks where we were surrounded by colors and textures…this was some of the most fun we had! We focused on the patron experience and identified materials that felt sophisticated but not slick, warm but not cartoony. The floor (it's made from recycled tires!) was selected because it's environmentally-friendly, warm, soft, easy to clean and vibrantly colorful. It was actually a very complicated process, but in the end everything came together beautifully.
Vice President of Operations Jessica Baker Vodoor Photo: Alexis Buatti Ramos
What was it like to be in charge of such a large project? Did the project hit any snags?
I love managing projects and especially one that is driven by such unified goals. I think our biggest challenge was figuring out how to introduce technology into the space without letting it become the "be-all, end-all" of the space. We have beautiful new screens that support, but do not replace the activities. The focus is all about family experiences. This took us awhile to figure out, but we realized that our education staff knew best about exactly what we need to support our public engagement activities. We didn't need a digital sculpture for the "cool factor"—we needed a set of digital tools that our staff could use to enrich and support the family activities. After looking high and low, speaking to consultants and even working with some technology designers, we returned to the idea that what we needed was tools. So, we formed an in-house team of staff members from different departments and started analyzing how we could use technology to amplify our family activities. The going was tough, but now we can't wait for our audiences to experience what we have in store for them!
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2016?
Dark, boring, old-fashioned
What three words would you use to describe the New Victory lobby of 2017?
Vibrant, energetic, warm
||Don't be a stranger! Visit the new lobby when you join us for Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic. Back by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve.