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Jacob’s Pillow

Jacob's Pillow releases its plans for a new $30 million Doris Duke Theatre on its Becket campus


The new building, seen here in a rendering, will feature two lobbies with sliding doors, which will create multiple entrances and exits to the building. 

BECKET — The price tag is formidable for the new, year-round Doris Duke Theatre to be constructed at Jacob’s Pillow: $30 million.

$27 million already has been raised toward the total goal of $35 million, including $5 million for an endowment, and building plans are in hand to replace the original theater destroyed by fire in November 2020.

“In replacing what was lost while looking to the future, Jacob’s Pillow seeks to create a future-forward dance theater as it looks ahead to its second century,” according to a news release from the dance festival’s leaders. Preliminary plans were announced last November.


This rendering depicts an aerial view of the Jacob’s Pillow campus, with the planned new Doris Doris Theatre on the site of the original Duke studio theater. 

The goal is to create an accessible, inclusive space for dialogue, collaboration and education. At the same time, the new theater would maintain the intimacy of the original, along with a new digital lab to handle various programming needs, future technical upgrades and ensure long-term sustainable growth, flexible performance spaces and resiliency.

The reimagined theater, expected to open in summer 2025, will be more than double the size of the original playhouse — about 20,000 square feet, compared to the 8,500 footprint. The theater will seat up to 230 patrons in the main performance space.

The original Doris Duke Theatre, named for the billionaire art collector, philanthropist and heiress (1912-1993), was built in 1989 and opened in 1990 as one of three primary performance sites on Jacob’s Pillow’s 220-acre campus.

The new space restores a second indoor theater for Jacob’s Pillow’s annual summer Dance Festival alongside the flagship Ted Shawn Theatre. It also will provide a year-round studio on the Pillow campus, in addition to the Perles Family Studio, home to The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and the Pillow Lab, artist-in-residence program.


This is what a possible production design inside the theater performance space in the new Doris Duke Theatre could look like.

Funding comes from a coalition of donors and foundations, supported by a formal campaign launching this month.

“The campaign goal is approximately $35 million, which is inclusive of construction of the new theater and establishing an endowment fund which will help support the aims and operations of the new theater,” according to Elise Linscott, public relations and communications coordinator for The Pillow.

Last November, the Doris Duke Foundation unveiled a $10 million naming gift. Additional funding came from the Knight Foundation for the digital priorities of the project, along with support from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund for the design phase.

Jacob’s Pillow, a National Historic Landmark and recipient of the National Medal of Arts, is also raising an endowment of $5 million or more for the digital project and to directly support artists who will be on site at the Pillow Lab.

The nation’s longest-running international dance festival was founded in Becket by famed dancer Ted Shawn, who had begun performing there with a small dance troupe in 1933. The festival attracts more than 80,000 patrons during its season, which opens for this summer on June 28 and runs until Aug. 27.

“We are so grateful for the leadership support that makes it possible for us to envision a re-imagined Doris Duke Theatre, one that promises to have the warmth and character of the original and beloved Duke, while at the same time being relevant and accessible to what artists and audiences will need in the future,” said Jacob’s Pillow Executive & Artistic Director Pamela Tatge in a prepared statement.


This rendering depicts a possible setup for activities and events inside the new Doris Duke Theatre. In addition to summer Festival performances, the new building is designed with a year-round, community focus and ease of use for special events.

The new space will have improved lighting and audio capabilities. Many windows and skylights, with darkening capabilities throughout the building, will connect the theater with the surrounding campus and landscape.

According to Tatge, the design creates a year-round venue “that will serve as an incubator for a new generation of artists seeking to integrate technology into live performance and create art native to the digital realm.”

Contributions from Indigenous artists to the design will include visual art installations, a medicinal garden with local and indigenous plantings near the entrance of the building, and a fire pit for gatherings and celebrations.

Jeffrey Gibson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, is a consultant on the building’s relationship to the site and Indigenous design values, a key element of the building’s design. According to the news release, The Pillow “seeks to honor the building’s context on the ancestral lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok, or Mohican peoples, who are now known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and reside in Wisconsin.”

The Pillow also honors the Agawam, Nipmuc, and Pocumtuc who also made their homes in what is now known as Western Massachusetts.

“It’s been great working with Jacob’s Pillow and [architecture firm] Mecanoo to develop the new Doris Duke Theatre,” Gibson said. “The current design takes into account important Indigenous values and supports multiple kinds of performances that can engage the inside and the outside of the building and traditional and more intimate performances. Certain Indigenous materials, patterns, and processes will be reflected in the interior and exterior, and I’m excited to see the submissions from Indigenous artists to help realize the final iteration of the building.”

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com.

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