Billie Holiday Theatre
A cultural powerhouse in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the Billie Holiday Theatre is located in a former dairy bottling plant that had not been updated since its opening in 1972. MBB’s renovation design focused on upgrading critical systems and improving the visitor experience to strengthen the legendary theater’s role as a community center.
Design challenges included an asymmetrical stage not suitable for different types of performance and poor sight lines with little to no wing space and fly space. The renovation of the 3,200 square-foot, 191 seat theater includes a total redesign of the house entry and seating, stage geometry, and support spaces as well as upgrades to theatrical systems, acoustics, and accessibility.
When a wall of original, faded performance posters dating back 40 years was uncovered during construction, the posters were scanned and made into wallpaper that now lines the hallway to the green room, linking past and present artists.
The renovation project was awarded as part of New York City’s Design Excellence Program, and completed several years before The Billie received the National Medal of Arts. President Joe Biden described the theater “an incredible place” that is “nurturing a new generation of Black playwrights, performers.”
“MBB brought a cost-effective and highly creative approach to the budget and schedule that enhanced our theatre's effectiveness, functionality, and beauty.”
Photos ©Francis Dzikowski