University of Texas at Austin

Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 90, Flexible Theatre, 1924, 1948-1950

Summary: Originally designed as Theatre Number Nineteen, with the Flexible Theatre, Geddes conceptualized and designed a theater building that could be converted into multiple types of stage, with a convertible stage and auditorium. Geddes saw this as a necessary step to push theater education and creativity in new directions, and printed a proposal detailing his ideas titled "Towards a More Flexible Theatre" with the Dramatists Play Service. Geddes hoped to have this new type of theater built at a college or place of higher learning in order to influence and excite a younger generation of dramatists, and at least 500 copies of the proposal were sent out by the Service to colleges and universities all over the United States.

The proposal was also presented in an article (Norman Bel Geddes and Howard Lindsay, "Towards a More Flexible Theatre," Theatre Arts vol. 33, June-July 1948), and the idea was presented for the Arkansas Theatre in 1948. In his proposal, Geddes wrote that "[m]y plea is for a new type of theatre, a theatre which will permit other than proscenium type productions. This does not rule out the proscenium type production. I merely ask that the beginner of any theatre course, the embryo worker in the theatre, be made conversant with the entire alphabet, not just the last three letters" (Norman Bel Geddes, "Towards a More Flexible Theatre," Norman Bel Geddes archive, Harry Ransom Center). Although there were some positive replies to his proposal, the theater was never built.

Geddes used images of Theater Number Six (job 15) in his 1947 article about the Flexible Theatre (Norman Bel Geddes, "Design for a New Kind of Theatre," New York Times Magazine, 30 Nov. 1947).

This job was also known as job 583.

Hunter Code: TH 17
Hunter Guide: page 178

Box/Location Folder Description
theater box 158 e 1 Preliminary Sketches --- 11 Sketches auditorium and stage relationships.
theater box 158 e 2 Preliminary Sketches --- 10 sketches seating arrangements (583).
theater box 158 e 3 Preliminary Sketches --- 2 Plans.
theater box 158 i 1 Publicity --- "Flexible Theatre," typescript, 6 May 1948 (2 copies); typescript for foreword by Howard Lindsay, 6 May 1948.
theater box 158 i 2 Publicity --- "Towards a More Flexible Theatre," leaflet published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc., [1948]; "Flexible Theatre," Theatre Arts, [vol. 32 (June-July 1948)] (4 copies).
theater box 158 i 3 Publicity --- Duplicate copies of "Towards a More Flexible Theatre."
theater box 158 i 4 Publicity --- "Design for a New Kind of Theatre," article in New York Times Magazine, 30 Nov. 1947 (copy 1 of 2).
flat file i 5 Publicity --- "Design for a New Kind of Theatre" (copy 2 of 2).
flat file j 1 Correspondence 1948-1957.
theater box 158 n 1 Photostats --- 4 Presentation drawings of stage.
flat file n 2-3 Photostats --- 5 Presentation drawings.
theater box 158 p 1 Production Specifications --- 2 Notes [1924, 1948].
theater box 158 q 1 Source Material --- Excerpt from undated, published article on the use of sound and visual equipment in education; "Resolutions for the Proposed National Theatre Assembly," supplement to Educational Theatre Journal, vol. 2, no. 1 (March 1950).
theater box 158 q 2 Source Material --- Claude Bragdon, "Towards a New Theatre," The Architectural Record, vol. 52, no. 3 (September 1922).