Silver Award: Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio

September 01, 2009 |
The Hanna Theatre is the last of five theaters in Cleveland’s Playhouse

Square to be renovated and “reimagined” for modern audiences.

Between February 1921 and November 1922 five theaters opened along a short stretch of Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, all of them presenting silent movies, legitimate theater, and vaudeville. During the Great Depression, several of the theaters in the unofficial “Playhouse Square” converted to movie theaters, but they all fell into a death spiral after World War II. By 1969, four of the five were forced to close.

Only the Hanna Theatre stayed alive, limping along into the '80s with local theater productions and the occasional Broadway preview, until it too went dark in 1989. Ten years later, an investment group led by Playhouse Square—a preservation organization that had already saved Hanna's cousins, the Allen, Ohio, State, and Palace theaters—acquired the historic Hanna Building with the goal of making the Hanna Theatre the permanent home of the Great Lakes Theater Festival.

For local A/E firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, the task of revitalizing the Hanna was compounded by the added assignment of making the space conducive to live concerts, stand-up comedy, corporate outings, and other events for which it was never intended.

WRL's new design significantly reconfigured the original 1,400-seat proscenium stage theater into an intimate 548-seat thrust stage, fully flexible in three independent sections, and adaptable to a 572-seat proscenium mode. Equipped with hydraulic lifts that can raise and lower parts of the stage at a rate of up to two feet per second as well as a new structurally independent fly system and improved acoustical, A/V, and lighting systems, the venue provides unparalleled production flexibility. General contractor Turner Construction completed the project in 8½ months, in time for the theater's opening performance September 20, 2008. —Jeffrey Yoders, Senior Associate Editor

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