Theatre Tours

National Conference Theatre Tours
2022 National Conference Sponsors

2022 Theatre Tours - Cleveland, OH

2022 Conference Host: Playhouse Square
2022 Conference Host

Updated 07.12.2022

The optional 2022 Pre-Conference Theatre Ramble took place on Sunday, July 10, from approximately 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Ramble took a group of attendees by motor coach to visit several theatres in and outside of downtown Cleveland.

In-Conference Theatre Tours: Monday morning, July 11, attendees toured three of the historic theatres of Playhouse Square - the Mimi Ohio, the KeyBank State, Hanna Theatre, and the Connor Palace. On Tuesday evening, July 12, attendees toured the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square. On Wednesday, July 13, attendees enjoyed a presentation about how the Gordon Square District was formed and toured Cleveland Public Theatre's historic Gordon Square Theatre and the Capitol Theatre.

Pre-Conference Historic Theatre Ramble, 7/10 ●
Akron Civic Theatre
Hanna Theatre
Karamu House
Maltz Performing Arts Center
Variety Theatre
Playhouse Square Theatre Tours, 7/11 ●
About Playhouse Square
Allen Theatre
Connor Palace Theatre
KeyBank State Theatre
Mimi Ohio Theatre
Gordon Square District Theatre Tours, 7/13 ●
About Gordon Square District
Capitol Theatre
Gordon Square Theatre/Cleveland Public Theatre
About Gordon Square District
District Photo Credit Steve Wagner

The Gordon Square Arts District's vibrancy is driven by arts and culture. It’s where our diverse neighbors live and thrive. It’s where entrepreneurs create small businesses, from art galleries to pinball parlors to handmade leather goods to wonderful restaurants. It is also where Northeast Ohioans come to experience some of the most remarkable art in our region—not just at Cleveland Public Theatre—but also at Maelstrom Collaborative Arts, 78th Street Studios, Near West Theatre, and so many more.

This convergence of arts and community development has long been the dream (and plan) of Cleveland Public Theatre. As the first major anchor of our neighborhood revitalization, CPT has been working to transform the neighborhood since the early 80s! In 1999, Founder James Levin reached out to Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization with a vision of Gordon Square as an arts district. With James’ leadership, Gordon Square Arts District was born and Near West Theatre joined the partnership. A collaborative capital campaign led by Matt Zone, Albert Ratner, Dick Pogue, and Tom Sullivan transformed the physical properties of the neighborhood, stabilized our anchor arts assets, and led to an economic revitalization.

Today, more than 80 new businesses are thriving in the neighborhood. Gordon Square Arts District spans west to 78th Street Studios, home to dozens of art galleries and studios, and east to include Talespinner Children’s Theatre and Maelstrom Collaborative Arts. Gordon Square Arts District is an incredible model for how long-term investment in the arts can not only change lives, but also change our neighborhoods!

About Playhouse Square
Playhouse Square

(From the Playhouse Square website.)

Overview: The largest performing arts center in the country outside of New York, the not-for-profit Playhouse Square is Northeast Ohio’s destination for Broadway and more great entertainment. A thriving downtown neighborhood, residents, office workers and visitors can dine and relax at area restaurants or on U.S. Bank Plaza under the glow of North America’s largest outdoor chandelier – the GE Chandelier. Playhouse Square is a champion of arts education and downtown Cleveland, and proud to be the home of seven resident companies. Five of Playhouse Square’s 11 performance spaces are fully restored historic theaters first opened 1921-22.

Facts: Welcomes more than 1 million guests and hosts 1,000+ events, on average, each year ● Draws more than 120,000 guests each year from outside the Northeast Ohio region ● Completed the Dazzle the District neighborhood makeover in 2014, featuring North America’s largest outdoor chandelier, the GE Chandelier ● Restored its five historic theaters to their original 1920s splendor, making Playhouse Square the world’s largest theater restoration project ● Earns 90 percent of its operating budget through a unique business model centered around real estate services supporting arts operations; performing arts industry averages only 74 percent nationwide ● Contributes in excess of $43 million in local economic impact annually, exclusively from its performing arts activity (Cleveland State University 2004 study) ● Provides an unheard-of 80 percent annual return on the community’s initial restoration investment of $55 million.

Learn More

Akron Civic Theatre
Akron Civic Theatre

The 2,466-seat Akron Civic Theatre opened in 1929 as a Loew’s movie house. In 1965, the facility was renamed Akron Civic Theatre. In 2002, the Civic undertook a $22 million capital project to restore the theater and completed most of the work with the exception of the grand lobby and entry arcade. In 2018, the theater launched an $8.5 million capital campaign to complete the restoration, add a new box office and administrative offices and build the Knight Stage (200+ capacity) in an empty historic building attached and accessible to the main theater on the north side. A few months later, the Civic added another performance space called Wild Oscar’s, a 45-seat micro-venue on the back side of the theater’s building along Lock 4’s Garden Alley. Welcoming, on average, more than 150,000 patrons and 1,500 performing artists each year, the Civic hosts 250+ events annually and is a leading contributor to Summit County’s creative economy.

Allen Theatre
*Allen Theatre, Cleveland, OH

Facts:

Opened: April 1, 1921
Closed: May 7, 1968
Purpose: Movies
Style: Italian Renaissance
Features: One of the few “daylight atmospheric” theaters in the country. Side boxes decorative only
First Show: Silent movie -The Greatest Love</span >- Phillip Spitainy and 35-piece orchestra
Re-Opened: November 1, 1994 (unrestored); October 3, 1998 (restored); September 16, 2011 (reconfigured)
Capitol Theatre
Capitol Theatre, Cleveland, OH

The Capitol first opened April 8, 1921, as a silent movie house with a Wurlitzer organ, part of the larger Gordon Square Arcade complex. The theater featured a large, 1,400 seat main auditorium and provided a romantic backdrop to the quickly growing neighborhood: many residents report it was the location of choice for first dates. In the 1930s, the Capitol was converted to a “talkie.” As the neighborhood’s fortunes declined in the second half of the 20th century, the Arcade complex deteriorated as well. The Capitol closed in the early 1980s due to water infiltration and lack of any climate control system.

Efforts to restore the Gordon Square Arcade began in the early 1980s when Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) secured one of the country’s first Urban Development Action Grants to replace the roof and stabilize the building. With the advent of federal New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) in the early 2000s, it became possible to assemble a financing package for the Capitol, which was also a centerpiece of the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign. The $7.5 million renovation project began in 2008 and the Capitol re-opened in October 2009 as a three-screen, all digital movie theater.

Classically inspired architecture, woodwork, and original light fixtures have been restored to recreate the atmosphere of the 1920s-era silent movie palace, but with all the amenities of 21st century technology. The Capitol brings over 60,000 patrons to the Gordon Square Arts District per year.

The Capitol is owned by Northwest Neighborhoods CDC (formerly DSCDO) and operated by Cleveland Cinemas, and features Hollywood and independent films. In addition, a wide variety of special programming is screened, such as Happy Hour Classics, Summer Family Films, film festivals and documentaries with Q&A for community discussion.

Northwest Neighborhoods is committed to maintaining the Capitol as an economic driver — helping to attract new residents, new investment, and a more foot traffic to support surrounding businesses. In 2020, Northwest Neighborhoods upgraded the Capitol’s two upper theatres with larger, reclining seats (a top request from patrons). The installation of 68 total new seats was made possible by a grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

Connor Palace Theatre
*Connor Palace, Cleveland, OH

Facts:

Opened: November 6, 1922
Closed: July 20, 1969
Purpose: Vaudeville (B.F. Keith); (Modified for movies, 1926)
Style: French Imperial
Features: Grand Hall, Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, blue urn made in Serves, France before WWI. Seven floors of dressing rooms backstage
First Show: Vaudeville- Elsie Janis, the Cansinos, and Grace Hayes, several additional acts, and a big band. (Orch. seat was $1.65)
Re-Opened: April 30, 1988
Gordon Square Theatre / Cleveland Public Theatre
Gordon Square Ceiling Credit Cleveland Public Theatre

Cleveland Public Theatre was founded and incorporated in 1981 by James Levin. Upon returning home from New York, Levin was determined to form a theatre similar to Cafe LaMama, the internationally renowned experimental theatre in New York City, where he worked as an actor and director for three years. CPT continues to fulfill Levin’s vision of a theatre that can transform a neighborhood. Today CPT is Cleveland’s leading stage for adventurous new theatre and is recognized nationally for its groundbreaking work. In 1994 CPT completed its first successful capital campaign, raising more than $60,000 to purchase the building at 6415 Detroit Avenue. CPT transformed the first floor used-appliance store into a small black box theatre and a scene shop. The third floor, once an apartment, became the theatre’s administrative offices. In 1995 CPT acquired the adjoining building which housed the remains of Cleveland’s oldest standing theatre. The Gordon Square Theatre was built in 1911 as a vaudeville theatre and condemned by the city. Now resurrected, the Gordon Square Theatre is an integral part of the CPT Campus and the Gordon Square Arts District. In December 2009 CPT completed purchase of the de-sanctified Orthodox Church properties adjacent to the theatre buildings. This purchase was an important step in CPT’s development as a center of performing arts.

Hanna Theatre
*Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, OH

Facts:

Opened: March 28, 1921
Closed: 1988
Purpose: Legitimate Theater
Style: Italian Renaissance
Features: Interior features bronze trimming and marble corridors. Original ceiling- coffered Roman- remains today
First Show: Play - Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper starring William Haversham
Re-Opened: September 1997; September 20, 2008 (restored)

The Hanna Theatre will not be part of the Monday Playhouse Square tours. It will only be toured during the optional Pre-conference Ramble.

Karamu House
*Karamu House, Cleveland, OH

In 1915, a pair of Oberlin College (in nearby Oberlin, Ohio) graduates opened a settlement house in an area of Cleveland called “The Roaring Third,” located at the corner of East 38th Street and Central Avenue. With incredible vision, Russell and Rowena Woodham Jelliffe set out to establish a common ground where people of different races, religions, and social and economic backgrounds could come together to seek and share common ventures.

The settlement house idea was conceived out of the principles upon which our nation was founded: that the individual is not wholly determined by his environment but has the capacity to transcend it. Each person can, by his response to his environment, change the way it affects him. The Jelliffes soon discovered that the arts provided the perfect common ground, and in 1917, plays at the new Playhouse Settle began. The early 1920s saw a large number of African Americans move into the area from the South during the Great Migration, but resisting some pressure to exclude their new neighbors, the Jelliffes, a Caucasian couple, insisted that all races were welcome.

The Playhouse Settlement quickly became a magnet for some of the best African-American artists of the day. Dancers, printmakers, actors, and writers all found a Place where they could practice their crafts. The Jelliffes held high standards of excellence in the arts, not for the sake of excellence, but because they knew that pursuing excellence makes the greatest demands on the individual to fulfill the promise of his potential.

Reflecting the strength of the Black influence on its development, the Playhouse Settlement was officially renamed Karamu House in 1941. Karamu is a word in the Swahili language meaning “a place of joyful gathering.” It became a place where families could gather, share stories, feast, and enjoy.

KeyBank State Theatre
*KeyBank State Theatre, Cleveland, OH

Facts:

Opened: February 5, 1921
Closed: February 2, 1969
Purpose: Movies & Vaudeville
Style: Combines Roman, Greek & European Baroque
Features: Four 50-foot murals by American Modernist James Daugherty (1890-1974). Fifth mural by Arnold Englander. Total length of lobby from street to theater is 320 feet (said to be the longest in the world)
First Show: Movie - Polly with a Past & Buster Keaton short, Neighbors. Hyman Spitalny and his orchestra
Re-Opened: June 9, 1984
Maltz Performing Arts Center
Maltz Performing Arts Center, Cleveland, OH

One of only a few projects of its kind in the country, the Maltz Performing Arts Center was created through a historic partnership between Case Western Reserve University and The Temple – Tifereth Israel. The extraordinary generosity and vision of Milton and Tamar Maltz, together with like-minded philanthropic leaders, has resulted in this extraordinary, unprecedented project on the university’s campus.

Historic Silver Hall, with seating for 1,200 people, showcases students from Case Western Reserve’s music department, whose 19 ensembles include a symphony orchestra; an Early Music vocal ensemble; Baroque chamber ensembles and orchestra; ensembles for jazz, wind, and popular music; and the Case Concert Choir.

In 2018, the unique Silver Hall Concert Series was launched to showcase ensembles from across northeast Ohio, providing them with the valuable opportunity to perform a recorded concert in a large venue. The concert series attracted 15,000 guests during the 2019-2020 season alone.

While Silver Hall is used by The Temple – Tifereth Israel congregation for religious observances and occasional life-cycle events, Case Western Reserve has made The Maltz Performing Arts Center a destination for the Cleveland community to enjoy classical, jazz and gospel music concerts by local and national performers as well as the exchange of thought-provoking ideas. It is home to both Think Forum, Case Western Reserve's distinguished lecture series, and Cuyahoga County Public Library's William M. Skirball Writers Center Stage.

Mimi Ohio Theatre
*Mimi Ohio Theatre, Cleveland, OH

Facts:

Opened: February 14, 1921
Closed: February 2, 1969
Purpose: Legitimate Theater
Style: Italian Renaissance
Features: Italian Renaissance lobby contained 3 murals by Sampitrotti, entitled “Cycle of Venus.” Two paintings by P. Pizzi, in balcony of 14th century Venetian designed auditorium (All lost in lobby fire of 1964)
First Show: Play - The Return of Peter Grimm with David Warfield
Re-Opened: July 9, 1982
Variety Theatre
Variety Theatre, Cleveland, OH

The Variety Theatre often referred to as "The Lady on Lorain", opened in 1927 with seating for 1900, hosting both vaudeville shows and movies. At one time, it featured a Kimball organ and an orchestra pit, now covered. The theatre was constructed as part of a building complex which included storefront businesses and apartments.

The Variety was operated by Warner Bros. as a movie theatre until the early 1950s. In the 1970s and 1980s, it became a concert venue, with bands such as Metallica, R.E.M., and The Red Hot Chili Peppers playing there. It was last used by Cleveland Wrestleplex, before closing in 1990.

The Westown Community Development Corporation acquired the theatre in 2009 and, at their direction, The Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre began fundraising for major renovations to the theatre, upgrading both the electrical system and the roof. The original marquee had been destroyed by a tornado in 1953 and was not replaced until 2016, when a replica was built and installed.

Purchased in May 2022 by entrepreneur Kelly Flamos, the Variety will be restored for use as a live music venue, also welcoming other forms of art, performance, and community events.

Designed by Cleveland architect Nicola Petti, the Variety is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was named a City of Cleveland landmark.