Harman Hall Gives New Face to F Street

By: Harry Jaffe

I went to a play the other night to see the theater; the actors on stage were just an excuse to see DC’s new Sidney Harman Hall.

As we walked up Sixth Street in downtown’s Penn Quarter and took a left on F Street, the lights from Harman Hall illuminated what used to be just another dark, empty city block after the office workers left. The theater has made it come alive.

Harman’s three-level glass façade hangs over the street like a framed stage. Imagine Hitchcock’s Rear Window, with parties and people moving about on three floors. Ticket booths and the theater’s shop are on the first level, but the second has food and drinks and round tables on a floor that’s cantilevered over the street. The third floor leads to the theater’s balcony.

First suggestion: Get to Harman Hall an hour before curtain time so you can hang out over F Street, literally, and have a drink.

Liza Lorenz, the Shakespeare Theatre’s associate director of communications, tells me that the duo of Harman Hall and the Lansburgh Theater on Sixth Street makes for “a national destination theater.” Visitors can see The Taming of the Shrew at the Lansburgh and Tamburlaine or Edward II at the Harman.

I say the entire Penn Quarter is becoming a national destination for people who love theater. Downtown DC will never have Broadway, but it does have six theaters: Lansburgh, Harman, Warner, National, Ford’s, and Woolly Mammoth.

Architect Jack Diamond, of Toronto’s Diamond and Schmitt group, gets credit for Harman’s glass front and open interiors. In addition to Shakespeare, the Harmon will present modern dance, ballet, and classical music.

My critique?

Harmon Hall gets a thumbs up. Be there.

Now to the play: Tamburlaine was a brawling and bloody drama where the unwashed warriors get the women and the land and the crowns. Hard to find the heroes in the mess. Thumbs up—but watch out: they might get lopped off.