Backstage at the Fisher Center

by Gary Miller


We are fortunate to have Bard College as our home. There are bucolic gardens and pathways, gently rolling hills, and stately trees. At the north end of the campus, amidst yet more of nature’s offerings, stands a brilliant silver bird, Fisher Center. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the 110,000-square-foot center houses two theaters, four rehearsal studios for dance, theater, and music, and professional support facilities. It opened in April 2003, and The New Yorker called it “possibly the best small concert hall in the United States.”


The Sosnoff Theater seats approximately 800 people. It features a proscenium stage that accommodates opera, music, dance, and theater. A concert-shell insert can be used to accommodate orchestral and chamber concerts. The design of the room is intentionally simple: it is hexagonal, with walls that bow slightly inward to create convex surfaces that best diffuse sound. Its ceiling is high to give the room enough volume to allow sound within it to bloom. The room is acoustically tuned for optimal vocal and orchestral sound.

It’s also a hub for research and education, supporting artists, students, and audiences in the development and examination of artistic ideas. It shares perspectives from the past and present, as well as visions of the future. And, as LLI members know, Fisher Center offers a non-stop potpourri of entertainment in music, dance, and the theater, often at discounted ticket prices.

The Tour

On a recent Sunday in April, 35 Bard LLI members had a chance to tour the center, including a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour hosted by Kieley Michasiow-Levy, Bard Senior Individual Giving Manager, and Caroline Ryan, Development Operations Coordinator. Walking through the front door, looking up at the display of architectural details, we listened attentively as Kieley welcomed us and shared facts, figures, and insights.

“I tend to focus on very specific details,” she says, ”like the 5,647 stainless steel shingles, two-inch foam membrane, 40,000 square feet of Douglas fir veneer, and other physical characteristics of the building. I talk about acoustics a lot, and production details, but what I like to impart is the importance of the performing arts, the art and the work and the students.”


During the backstage part of the tour, we watched students apply makeup, get fitted for costumes, and practice dance in a wonderful, sunlit studio. It was easy to imagine these students, in the future, performing in a classical music concert, Broadway play, or dance recital. “‘Oklahoma! is a perfect example,” Kieley says, “Patrick Vaill was a student here and worked with Daniel Fish on that production in 2007, then returned in 2015 professionally, and was in that production again, and then ended up on Broadway. Oh boy. To see the evolution, you know, you, I mean, that’s just one student and one example.”

To view a slideshow of the tour, please click here.