If you’ve been aching to get a sneak peek inside the fantastic new Playhouse on the Square building, your moment has arrived. On Saturday, January 9th, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., Playhouse is hosting an alumni party for anyone who has ever worked at the theater. The public will have to wait one more day for the grand opening on Sunday, January 10th, when guided backstage tours are being offered from noon to 6 p.m. Prepare to be impressed.
The 350-seat theater was designed by John Morris of Chicago’s Morris Planners and houses three gallery spaces, two bars, a cafe, and a roof for parties. The new construction connects with the former Shoney’s office building on Union, which has been adapted into dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, a costume shop, and low-cost office space for other not-for-profit arts groups.
“I guess I made some of my local architect friends mad,” Playhouse on the Square’s founder and executive producer Jackie Nichols joked while conducting a hard-hat tour of the still-unfinished building in December. Nichols says he chose Morris, who designed Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, because he has a background in stage design, knows how to make the most out of a limited budget, and is especially sensitive to the needs of performing artists.
The cozy theater space is trimmed in natural hickory and outfitted with a fly gallery, orchestra pit, elevators, and trap doors. Best of all, there is no seat more than 10 rows from the stage, ensuring an intimate theater experience even for those seated in the balcony.
Pippin, the first show scheduled to open in the new space, begins its run on January 29th. — Chris Davis