Plays and Players is a century-old theater club devoted to promoting emerging Philadelphia artists and new works. In the vibrant and rapidly expanding Philadelphia theater scene, Plays and Players offers an historical base to the city’s theater industry, which is now home to over 150 theater companies and counting.
The club’s historic Delancey Street building was built in 1911 and has beautiful features of the Arts and Crafts movement scattered throughout, including a four-story cast iron spiral staircase behind the stage, beautiful iron-work gates, and an original heating system. These details fill the space with character and a sense of history, but also pose unique challenges: the radiators whistle, the roof leaks, and the steep, narrow staircases are not handicapped accessible.
The main theater of Plays and Players was opened as part of the Little Theater movement in the 1910's. The building is still using its original heating system.
Once the board of directors realized something had to be done to preserve the historic nature of the building, it sought the help of the Community Design Collaborative to develop a conceptual design for renovating the space. With the added help of a team of students from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, a three-step, ten-year plan took shape.
Phase One, currently in progress, focuses on life safety concerns of the building and updating the space to meet electrical and building code requirements. The third-floor library renovations are almost complete. Phase Two engages with infrastructure improvements – electrical and mechanical.
Phase Three aims to install an elevator lift to comply with ADA regulations. A fourth dimension of the work, restoring the Cantoria Friezes on the building’s exterior and the Edith Emerson murals that line the main theater, will be an ongoing task throughout the project.
Managing Director Rachel Dukeman is very excited about the renovation plans for the building. Now that a concrete plan is in place, she’s finding it much easier to communicate the building’s needs to funders, supporters and members. “The work the Collaborative did was tremendous … it was eye-opening. I think it also legitimized some of the concerns that the board was having and said that 'yes, this was real and yes, we could do this and yes, we need to do it.'”
A special thanks to our volunteer team!Studio Agoos Lovera Kira Broecker Eric Delss, Project Leader Michael Palmer
DCM Architecture/Engineering John Colarelli
H2L2 Architects/Planners, LLC Dozie Ibeh
Harkins Builders, Inc. Paul Kraunelis
John Milner Associates, Inc. Lori Aument
Keast & Hood Co. Jonathan Price
McGrann Associates Emma Raymont
Penn Design Jason Cantu
Thomas A. Monari, PE Tom Monari
UCI Architects, Inc. Fon Wang