Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 Lakes, offers a robust selection of theaters, from professional to community—in all regions of the state
By Tinder Kiely
Theater in Minnesota might surprise you. It’s a rich, vibrant scene where you can find all the classics or watch an original production in many places across the state. Theater here is immensely popular, especially considering the fact there are well over 50 performing arts theaters in Minneapolis alone. With so many options and places to catch a show and performance, here are some of the most popular venues for travelers.
Some of the most popular theaters in Minnesota are:
Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis
Over coffee and tea, the world-famous director Sir Tyrone Guthrie discussed his displeasure of Broadway with his colleagues Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler. They envisioned a new kind of American theater: one that would draw crowds from outside NYC to a regional theater somewhere else in America,. SO they sent out a plea in The New York Times drama section. Of the seven cities that responded with interest, the three men chose Minneapolis as the home to their groundbreaking theater. A few years later, in 1963, the Tyrone Guthrie Theater opened with a production of Hamlet, directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie himself. Since then the Guthrie theater has had immense success as Minnesota’s most popular theater. Its facilities include three different stages: a proscenium theater, a black box theater and a state-of-the-art Wurtele Thrust stage, whose 1,100 seats wrap around the stage on three sides allowing for patrons to be put right into the action. Productions run year-round, so if you’re nearby, you should definitely see what the hype is all about.
Old Log Theatre, Greenwood
Recognized as the oldest professional theater in Minnesota, and sometimes cited as the longest continually running professional theater in America, the Old Log Theater is sure to impress travel groups with it’s historic reputation. Founded in 1940, it originally opened as a summer stock company inside a small log stable, where it gained strong local support and a reputation for being a quality theater. Over the years, many big names have performed here such as Nick Nolte, Loni Anderson and more. In 2013, the theater was purchased by a couple who have since completely modernized the space with new lights and a state-of-the-art sound system, as well as creating a standalone fine dining restaurant—Cast and Cru—for patrons to enjoy.
Penumbra Theater, St. Paul
Penumbra Theater displays cutting-edge productions and houses Minnesota’s only Black professional theater company. Their mission is admirable: Through their powerful art, they aim to open hearts, rehearse strategies for change and dispel dehumanizing narratives of people of color. Founded in 1976 by award-winning director Lou Bellamy, Penumbra has since been a pillar of Minnesota theater with their quality productions.
Rochester Civic Theater, Rochester
The Civic is an integral center of arts and culture in this region of Minnesota. Founded in 1951 by a group of non-professional actors who dubbed themselves “The Log Cabin Players,” due to the fact that their first play took place inside a log cabin. Their original show garnered enough attention that the town of Rochester formally incorporated the theater just one month later and provided a new 300-seat location in prime downtown. In a city that is not known for its arts, the Rochester Civic Theater is a gem.
Lyric Arts, Anoka
Lyric Arts Main Street Stage is the only year-round, full-time playhouse in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis. Located in the heart of the beautiful and historic town of Anoka, Lyric Arts puts on nine to 10 productions per season, all varying in genre. Lyric Arts also emphasizes education, offering after-school programs, weekend and evening workshops, community education programs and artist residencies.
The Ames Center, Burnsville
Located in Burnsville, The Ames Center provides quality theater offerings for those south of the Twin City metropolitan area. Created in 2009, the center’s facilities include a 1,014-seat Masquerade Dance Theater and an intimate 150-seat Black Box Theater. The space also boasts an outdoor venue that seats 250 people, and a 2,000-square-foot gallery onsite.
Duluth Playhouse, Duluth
Founded in 1914 by a small group of women, “The Playhouse” is thought to be one of the nation’s oldest community theaters. Duluth Playhouse is the most popular theater in Northeast Minnesota and produces a year-round season of dramas, musicals and childrens’ productions. The Playhouse has two different theaters: the Mainstage, which hosts 580 in either balcony or main-floor seats, and the Underground, an intimate and unique 120 seat theater.
- Children’s Theater Company, Minneapolis
- Jungle Theater, Minneapolis
- Mixed Blood Theater Company, Minneapolis
- Park Square Theater, St. Paul
- Lakeshore Players Theater, White Bear Lake
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