Like a Phoenix Out of the Ashes, Howard Theatre Arises

Denise Rolark-Barnes | 4/4/2012, 12:05 p.m.

"We just had to come up with something that was modern and warm but, most importantly, flexible," Moya, said. The new theatre's flexible floor arrangement has a capacity for 600-seated guests, and from 1,000 to 1,200 standing. "What we want this time around is for the Howard to be economically sustainable, so that it's flexible enough for various uses and not just locking it into just one type of facility."

The theatre has been closed for 30 years and the D.C. Preservation League listed it among the District's Most Endangered Places in 2002.

Today, glass and mahogany wood surround the entire space and the walls are painted a muted tone of beige to give a feeling of warmth. Marshall and Moya often use the word "warm" as they point out highlights of the interior design.

"At first Michael started with the overall concept, but we wanted something very soft, very welcoming and warm. The light boxes would be a way of bringing in the historic aspect of the space, but trips to several places helped us to root out many ideas and think about how comfortable and intimate we want things to be for the patrons," Moya said.

Light boxes are situated throughout the theatre including the restrooms. Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Marvin Gaye and Duke Ellington are just a few of American music icons whose faces will be illuminated.

"The great thing about the client was they thought about the life cycle of how the theatre would be used Monday through Sunday and then throughout the entire year. The design responds to how the event can change and how the venue can adapt for corporate, concerts, or comedy events.

The "new" Howard Theatre is expected to offer a balance of national events and community performances. The Howard's future cabaret-style format will host a variety of cultural events and is expected to lead the rebirth of jazz, R&B, soul, blues, and funk in Washington D.C.

The theatre will also feature a museum and gift shop. And, with the return of the theatre lobby, one wall will be set aside to recognize contributors to the theatre's $25 million rebuilding project.

This is the Mercedes Benz of theatres, Marshall said. "This is a one of a kind venue."

"It's great when people go on the tours, and they have so many memories even though the theatre has been closed for 30 years."

"[The opening of the theatre] is becoming a reality and it's exciting for us to be a part of it," Moya said.