The formerly cramped and awkwardly-designed Joe's Pub reopened last night after a three month renovation. It was worth the wait: parts of the venue—especially the general admission bar area and right in front of the stage—used to be very uncomfortable. But now the space has been reconfigured with a smaller bar, significantly better sight lines, reserved seats for all audience members, plus an improved sound and lighting system. Take a look around!
As you can see, the lip of the stage is now a curved table, where audience members can sit right up close to the action (and, if they're not careful, have their deviled eggs sprayed with singers' spittle). The tables are arranged better so you nobody has to awkwardly sit with their backs to the stage, and the sight lines improve as you sit further back, where thin long tables ring the higher levels. The sound booth has been redesigned and repositioned to give the engineers the best possible placement to perfect the levels. And the lighting rig features a new state-of-the-art ETC ion touch screen lighting console with all the lights recalibrated for the new layout.
The pub (which is named after Public Theater founder Joe Papp) reopened last night with a rollicking rechristening from Stew (Passing Strange) and his longtime collaborators. The single-named musician, with longtime bassist Heide Rodewald at his side, recalled that he "first played Joe's Pub in 2003. All our New York friends told us, 'You just need to play at Joe's and everything will be cool.' Then I started spending so much time here I would hide stuff. There was a time you could hide suitcases here at the Public Theater, under some other show's junk. I'd go to Berlin and come back three months later and it would be here."
Incidentally, the entrance to Joe's Pub is currently through the Public Theater lobby, which is undergoing a major gut renovation and looks like complete crap. But on the plus side, the notoriously awful restrooms at the theater have been completely rebuilt and are open for business—it's like night and day compared to what they used to be. As for the rest of the place, well, you'll have to wait until the spring of 2012. However, the performances are continuing throughout the project—this month Sam Waterston stars in a production of King Lear, and riveting raconteur Mike Daisey returns with his solo show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.