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Jacob’s Pillow announces plans to replace the Doris Duke Theatre, destroyed by fire

A new venue of the same name will have upgraded technology and more than double the square footage.

A rendering of the ground-level perspective of the new Doris Duke Theatre.Mecanoo Architects and Marvel

Jacob’s Pillow recently announced plans for a new and larger building to replace the destroyed Doris Duke Theatre.

The original Doris Duke Theatre opened on the Pillow’s Becket campus in 1990; a fire of unknown cause burned it down in 2020. The former 216-seat theater of about 8,500 square feet will be reimagined as a nearly 20,000-square-foot, 230-seat, multiuse theater with the same name and in the same location, with improved accessibility and technological features. It is expected to be finished in 2025.

The new year-round space, “will serve as an incubator for a new generation of artists seeking to integrate technology into live performance and create art native to the digital realm,” said the Pillow’s executive and artistic director Pamela Tatge in a press release. “It will be a porous, indoor/outdoor space for creation, performance, and community engagement that speaks to the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic about the need for community-building, and our innate connection with nature, which we at the Pillow treasure greatly.”

“Dance artists sorely need the sorts of space, tech, and expertise that the Pillow is assembling right now. This is where the future of the field will come from,” Sydney Skybetter, a consultant on the Doris Duke Theatre project and founder of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces at Brown University, said in the press release.


A National Historic Landmark, Jacob’s Pillow presents the longest-running international dance festival in the United States. The organization received $10 million for the theater from the Doris Duke Foundation in November, and is currently raising the remaining $8 million of a roughly $35 million campaign goal, which includes both the construction costs and establishment of an endowment.

The new venue, described as both a “makerspace” and “digital lab,” will include exhibition and rehearsal spaces and a green roof. Jacob’s Pillow is on the ancestral lands of the Mohican peoples — now the Stockbridge-Munsee Community — and the new theater will incorporate Indigenous culture through art installations and a medicinal garden, among other elements.


“Certain Indigenous materials, patterns, and processes will be reflected in the interior and exterior,” Jeffrey Gibson, a consultant for the new building and a Choctaw and Cherokee artist, said in the press release.

A rendering of a production at the reimagined Doris Duke Theatre. Mecanoo Architects and Marvel

The theater will be equipped with a “digital spatial audio system,” and interactive video and projection capabilities, as well as windows and skylights that can darken.

Visitors and staff will also find a more accessible venue because of catwalks, more bathrooms, and better wheelchair seating. Artists will have a larger greenroom and dressing rooms, and staff will have office spaces and an additional box office to complement the main one on campus. Architecture firms Mecanoo, based in the Netherlands, and Marvel, based in New York, are working on this project, along with theater and acoustics consultant Charcoalblue and its studios in New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area.

Jacob’s Pillow reopened its larger redesigned Ted Shawn Theatre last June, as it celebrated its 90th anniversary.

Abigail Lee can be reached at abigail.lee@globe.com.