Matthew Mazzotta builds retractable Storefront Theater for Nebraska community

The Storefront Theater provides the town of Lyons with an open-air event space, which can be hidden away and disguised at part of the streetscape when not in use.

An unassuming storefront in a small Nebraska town flips down to become a 100-seat theatre, which artist Matthew Mazzotta installed to reinvigorate the neglected main street.

Hydraulic cylinders on either side push down the awning and false frontage over the sidewalk, revealing stepped seats with room for 100 spectators. A screen can be wheeled in front by a tractor, then driven away again when necessary.

“Both the seats and the screen retract and disappear when not in use, giving the impression that there is nothing unusual in this town, leaving only word-of-mouth accounts for inquiring visitors,” said Mazzotta, a fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

The aim of the project is to help bring life back to downtown Lyons, which has a population of 851. Like many other small towns in the US, its main street has suffered decline as independent stores and services fell victim to cheaper chain retailers.

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