An intimate space to explore and perform the old and the new.
By the mid-1970s there was talk of opening a third theatre venue where more adventuresome contemporary pieces could be staged. The rehearsal space in the building on the corner of Pioneer and Main streets across from the festival’s administration building had been in use for the Black Swan Projects, company-driven performances of plays that were rehearsed and performed for company members and friends late at night. The space seemed right for a new public venue.
The building itself had gone through many incarnations. For many years it was a car dealership and then became a Lyle’s, a flooring business. Lyle’s closed its doors in the mid-1960s, and the festival acquired the building in 1969. It served many purposes, including a scene shop.
In 1977 the Black Swan opened with Shelagh Delaney’s play, A Taste of Honey, directed by James Edmondson. The theatre space was designed by Richard L. Hay, with assistance from technical director Duncan McKenzie. In an interview at the time the theatre opened, Hay described the intimate space as “an energy place, stripped for action.” The theatre seated 138 people, and in the 1976 program, Artistic Director Jerry Turner wrote that the theatre will “offer us the opportunity to explore work, both old and new, that cries for performance…The Black Swan will be a theatre where we can stretch muscles.”
Turner, in describing why the name was chosen said that “the Black Swan was a beautiful bird with an exotic color and a fierce temper. It’s a fitting emblem for what our third stage should be.” Lighting designer Steven A. Maze had suggested the name.
Eventually, the Black Swan was consistently more than 95 percent of capacity, so in 2002, the state-of-the-art ThomasTheatre opened. The Black Swan’s final main-stage show in 2001 was Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano. The space continues to be used for a variety of Company meetings, performances and rehearsals.