Helen Hayes Theatre

New York, NY

Originally named the “Little Theater” when it was built in 1912 by Winthrop Ames, the Helen Hayes Theater was conceived as an intimate venue where audiences felt like they were sitting in a grand domestic salon as opposed to the larger commercial theaters of the time. It acquired landmark designation in 1987 protecting it from significant architectural alteration. But after over a century of use, the theater was showing its age and was in need of significant upgrades to the infrastructure – presenting the challenge of respecting the historic interiors while bringing it into the twenty-first century.

The ultimate project goal was to modernize the theatre while honoring its Landmark designation and the intent of the original architect. EverGreene conservators first completed a historic finishes investigation, documenting findings for the Landmarks’ review process, which supported a case for artistic flexibility in a new paint scheme for the interior.

One of the main elements of the renovation is a new mural, lining the interior, inspired by the French tapestries that adorned the theater when Ames founded it. The hand-painted mural uses a custom glyph typeface to create a pixelated ombré effect from light to dark blue. When seen up close it is modern and abstract. But from a distance, the bacchanal scenes from the original tapestry appear, giving modern viewers an opportunity to experience a modern take on the original greek mythology-inspired salon. EverGreene created a process that provided an affordable solution, developed a color palette, and created a contemporary aesthetic for the historic theater that brings the Helen Hayes Theater into the future.

Through its collaboration with the architects and designers, EverGreene was able to evaluate the feasibility of this unique design concept and translate it into reality.