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Ruth Caplin Theatre University of Virginia | Charlottesville, Virginia | 2013

Ruth Caplin Theatre University of Virginia | Charlottesville, Virginia | 2013

Architects: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.
Client: University of Virginia
General Contractor: Nielsen Builders, Inc.
Theatre Consultants: Theatre Projects Consultants
Photographer: Robert Benson Photography


The new Thrust Theatre lines the face of the existing 1972 Drama Building and transforms the emerging Arts Quadrangle.

An academic theatre addition to the Drama Department's primary building, the 300-seat Caplin pushes into a hillside and beyond a few boundaries. It wraps its audience more than halfway around the stage, and, in turn wraps the seats with a glass wall overlooking the marching band's main route to the practice field. A unique curtain wall invites a look into the theatre from the quad while keeping rogue euphonia out of play. Flexible AV systems coupled with infrastructure that laces the room allow the same components to serve theatrical effects, full-on music theatre, a summertime film festival, and even the occasional concert.

Innovative Natural Light ensures the Drama Department has a vibrant presence and contributes to the energy of the Arts Quadrangle. It allows for natural light during rehearsals (acknowledging that most of the time students spend in this space will be for rehearsals, classes, and set building).

Thrust style theater eliminates proscenium and immerses audience around three sides of the performance.

Vomitory entrances from lower level dressing rooms provide dramatic entrances, with actors emerging from within the audience.

The Theatre creates a new transparent facade to the existing Drama building along the west edge of the Arts Quad. • Its lobby becomes a new student gathering space for the Drama Department and unites the building’s three venues.

The project is the cornerstone of the Arts Precinct Master Plan, by this Architect, which has created an Arts Quadrangle uniting Art, Architecture, the Arts Library, Music and Theatre around an open space.

The Quad has been designed to foster connections among disciplines and to become an arts venue itself, with outdoor sculpture, performances, and classrooms.

The building navigates a 20-foot grade change from north to south and was shaped to preserve an existing 100-foot tall existing White Oak tree.

A curving staircase leads from the theater entrance to a landscaped green roof that extends the upper Quadrangle.


Ruth Caplin Theatre University of Virginia
Ruth Caplin Theatre University of Virginia

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