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"An excited crowd poured into the Armory on opening night. More than 10,000 people attended the 9 Evenings of Theatre and Engineering. We estimated that the 30 engineers who participated in the project, put in 8,500 man-hours of work."
Crowd entering 69th St. Armory

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Click to play video Excerpt from 9 Evenings


9 Evenings of Theatre and Engineering <1966>

The idea of the artist-engineer collaboration materialized with 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering , a group of collaborative performances that took place from October 13 to October 23, 1966 at the 69th regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City.

I first discussed the idea with Robert Rauschenberg, and we decided to go ahead. We invited artists to participate: Steve Paxton, Robert Whitman, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, David Tudor, Öyvind Fahlstrom, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, Lucinda Childs, and Robert Rauschenberg. I recruited engineers from Bell Laboratories to work on the project.

On January 14, 1966, the group of artists and engineers began to meet. At the first artist-engineer meeting, I told the artists to ask for anything they wanted and the engineers responded with suggestions on how to accomplish their ideas. These meetings lasted through March, and we collected more than seventy artists' requests. Not all of these were realized.

The engineers went to work. As time went on one engineer was assigned to each artist depending on what the artists' project was and what the engineer's speciality was. Other engineers worked on equipment and systems that would be used by more than one artist.

The 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at 25th Street was empty and available. The many Armories located around New York City serve as headquarters and practice halls for local National Guard Units, who still hold drill practice there. This particular Armory had been the site of the famous Armory show of 1913, that introduced modern European art to the United States, and where Marcel Duchamp showed Nude Descending the Staircase. It was a very exciting space, although the acoustics were terrible. The reverberation time for sound was 6 seconds. The artists liked the idea of its size. It would now be possible to reach a much larger audience than they had had at Judson Church or at the downtown Happenings. Audience size had become an issue for them.

We moved into the 69th Regiment Armory to set up on October 8th, with only five days to the first performance. During the next five days we installed the electrical system for the stage lights and other equipment, laid miles of cable, installed the sound system with 12 speakers in the balcony surrounding the central space, and set up the bleachers for the audience. The artists held rehearsals as best they could.There were endless conferences. The Armory had a vaulted steel roof, 40 meters high in the center. It was a challenge.

9 Evenings left a permanent impression on the artists who participated and on the many younger artists who were in the audience. It has become a classic event.