The Des Moines Community Playhouse turns 95 this year and has been a constant part of the culture of Des Moines running uninterrupted for most of its history. Originally called The Little Theatre by its founding members, the Iowa Press and Authors club in 1919, it has grown into the second largest community theatre in the U.S. with more than 55,000 annual attendees and 30,000 annual educational program participants.

In 1952, the Playhouse purchased their current home. Built in 1934, the building originally housed the Roosevelt Movie Theatre, run by Tri States Theatres. The theatre became an integral part of the Roosevelt Shopping District. This was and is a vibrant community, of which the Playhouse is a vital resource and contributor. It has been and is a gathering space for people of all ages, whether that is through classes, performances, or social events. The Playhouse continued to evolve with additions that supported the Playhouse functions in both 1952 and 1969. The last major renovation and addition was in 1995 which added the Kate Goldman Children’s theater. The Children’s theater has become a successful resource to the surrounding community and continues to improve the quality of life for children in the Greater Des Moines area.

Due to the continual success its programs and growing need to service more of the community, the Playhouse is undergoing renovation to its historical structure. Additional space is needed to expand the lobby, classroom space, and back-of-house functions in addition to rejuvenating the Main Stage Theater and related administrative and support spaces.

The first phase of the project includes the creation of a new glass lobby, which activates 42nd Street with a glass envelope that allows passersby to view activities inside and glows at night as an active component of the community. It is a gathering area before and after performances and can be used for smaller events, bringing the culture of the theater closer to the community. The lobby is a hub of communication and social interaction, giving people an open and bright space to engage with and enjoy the Playhouse. While the delicate glass lobby is of modern design, BNIM Architects chose to pay homage to the 1934 structure, keeping much of the original stonework, tying the history of the community with its bright and expanding future.

The second phase of the project includes an extensive interior renovation of the existing 400 seat main stage theater, auditorium/house, existing lobbies and support areas contained within the existing building envelope. The renovation work will update the existing 1934 theater space and infrastructure with interior upgrades to the main hall, technical equipment, theatrical support, and lighting upgrades. The existing main house space will be transformed by removing an existing plaster ceiling and exposing the existing bow string trusses while creating a dynamic theatrical space with improved overall acoustical performance. Additional enhancements include modifying elements of the main stage theater for compliance with the Iowa State Building Code (2012 IBC) and Americans with Disabilities Act (2010 ADAAG) and upgrades to improve the acoustical performance of the theater and house. These improvements will help transition the Playhouse main stage theater into a contemporary theatrical space and will help continue to establish the Playhouse as a valued community resource for future generations to experience.

Additional historical photographs (1950s and 1930s) exist and are being requested.