Last night I went up to the Guggenheim for their Works & Process series, which was focusing on Steve Reich's newest Radiohead-inspired piece, Radio Rewrite. The evening was wonderful, with Reich on hand to speak about each piece that was performed—these included 3 of the 5 movements of the new piece, as well as older pieces like WTC 9/11 and Nagoya Marimbas. He will be back there tonight, and I would highly recommend you go. However, I will now warn you that if you do... you will be sitting in arguably the worst theater seats in all of New York City.
These seats are so bad it almost feels like some grand prank is being played on the audience by a hidden camera show, or the late Frank Lloyd Wright himself, who designed the Peter B. Lewis Theater.
The offending seats are only in the center of the room, where the ground slopes downward towards the center of the circle. Those seats follow the slope of the floor, so it is as if you put a chair in the middle of a hill, and are now meant to sit on it without falling off (or in the case of this theater, into the stranger sitting next to you). In order not to slide into your neighbor, you are forced to keep yourself in the center of your seat by using muscles you fully did not intend on having to use while enjoying some music on a pleasant summer evening.
As if that hill wasn't enough, the seats are all connected, forming the row into (a much less disturbing version of) a human centipede—so whenever someone moves even the slightest amount, everyone experiences turbulence.
Even after a few glasses of complimentary prosecco at the reception after the performance, the seats were still haunting me. Not because I was somehow inconvenienced or tortured by sitting on one, but their existence is simply confounding. Why are they like this? Was Frank Lloyd Wright a sham who didn't get how seats worked? I've reached out to the Guggenheim press team to find out more about the design, and if there are any plans to fix it... this post will be updated if I hear back about this Very Important Matter.