This past Saturday, as I was walking out of the number 1 train at Lincoln Center before show-time and thinking of Maxwell Bodenheim's poem "Summer Evening: New York Subway Station" ("An effervescence of noises/Depends upon cement for its madness"), I realized that I had never written a word about the backstage relationship between the theaters at LCT.
Until recently, there seemed no need to do so. There was the Beaumont upstairs and the Mitzi E. Newhouse downstairs, and such a blog posting would have been too rote an exercise in compare-and-contrast. Now, with the addition of the 112-seat Claire Tow Theater on the roof of LCT's original Eero Saarinen building, the comparison swells to three: a number more complex and spiritual.
I don't wish to explicate the architectural relationship between the spaces: Paul Goldberger has already done that in a splendid story in Vanity Fair. I wish merely to tell you the general spatial relationships backstage for the actors and crew.
I can't pretend that there is a central meeting point where actors from all three theaters hang out and engage in shop talk. The backstage at the Beaumont has a small canteen between the two main rows of dressing rooms, but that area is used mostly for Beaumont cast and crew. Two levels below, the Newhouse's version of this mini-commissary is the small café down the hall from the Newhouse's dressing rooms. Sometimes, Beaumontians drift down there in search of something decay-inducing from one of the vending machines: at least they used to, before "War Horse," with its non-smoking, veg-eating, bike-to-work performers, took over the main house.
The commerce between Beaumontians and Newhousers is more regular when a rehearsal is going on in one of the rooms adjacent to the vending-machine area. There, on a break, you might see a Beaumontian exclaim over some actorly pal she has not glimpsed since, just out of drama school, they did "Our Town" in Ogunquit. But such encounters are almost non-existent at the moment, since we have entered the summer doldrums: no shows are in rehearsal in those LCT rooms, and "4000 Miles," the acclaimed production in the Newhouse, has just closed.
I always feel a little forlorn this time of year, when so many shows are disappearing and the Newhouse is shuttered. I enter the LCT building and roam around the hallways and realize that the "War Horse" gang is the only gang around. I slide into reveries of what The New Yorker essayist E. B. White called "Summertime, oh, summertime, pattern of life indelible." But the pattern this season is more varied. The addition of the Tow, at least during the month of July, as long as the space's inaugural staging, "Slowgirl," carries on, means that there are possibilities to roam further afield.
Those possibilities, I must admit, are largely theoretical. The dressing rooms for the Tow are on the roof, reached by elevators tucked into the south side of the Beaumont lobby. Thus Towheads tend not to consort with Beaumontians or Newhousers. They are outliers. They must make merry with each other. I trust that this week they will do so -- July 4th or no July 4th.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.