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Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, people have gathered in open-air theaters to enjoy performances of comedies, tragedies, and music. Called “theatron,” these massive outdoor auditoriums were built into cliff sides and mountains, designed vertically in a curved shape to almost magically amplify performers without the aid of a microphone or sound system. One of the most famous of these spaces is the Theatre of Epidaurus, where a performer standing in the middle of the stage in front of 15,000 spectators can be heard from the top of the stands—making the “nosebleed” tickets of antiquity a little more bearable.
Fast-forward a few centuries, and in 2021, the small town of New Albany, Ohio, constructed a unique public space—with seating for almost a 10th of the entire town. Erected with an architectural design complimenting the area’s Georgian and Palladian architecture, the town’s amphitheater is one of the newest outdoor venues in the centuries-old history of these open-seating gathering spaces.
With a ribbon-cutting the DLR Group-designed space burst onto the scene with concerts from the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, Broadway stars, and a “Night at the Movies” for families. DLR Group Senior Principal Paul Westlake, FAIA, who designed the neighboring McCoy Community Center for the Arts, leveraged techniques the Ancient Greeks would appreciate, surrounding the stage with trees, gardens, and nature. While this beauty takes advantage of modern technology and a top-tier sound system, the amphitheater’s design uses the same acoustical principles of the Greek theaters, implementing a curved design to deliver sound to the listening crowd.
Some things really do stand the test of time. This open-air “bandshell” has become a staple of the arts community, bringing people together for a shared cultural experience with solid acoustics wherever you may be seated—and we can confirm the “nosebleed” section is more than bearable.
Written By: Seamus McMahon