Allen Elizabethan Theatre

Performance Spaces

Explore the history of the Allen Elizabethan Theatre and OSF’s other theatre venues.

For in depth information about the theatres, click on the links below. 

From 1935 through 1969, the Festival almost exclusively produced Shakespeare in its main and only performance space, the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. There were three different stagehouses, one built in 1935, one in 1947, and the current one built in 1959.

Attendance skyrocketed in the 1960s and record numbers of people were turned away. With limited capacity for seating and revenue, it became necessary to build a new theater. With the opening of the Angus Bowmer Theatre in 1970, the season expanded into the spring and fall, and new repertory was developed, adding Western classics to the playbill.

In 1977 this small black box space was designed in an existing building on Pioneer Street. The space provided an opportunity for the company to present old and new plays that were not performed frequently as they were deemed risky or unpopular.

Eventually, the Black Swan was consistently sold at more than 95 percent of capacity, so in 2002, the state-of-the-art New Theatre opened. As a result of the generous donation of $4.5 million in 2012 from a group of donors, in 2013 the New Theatre will be renamed the Thomas Theatre, in recognition of longtime OSF Development Director Peter D. Thomas, who died in March 2010.

Hay_Richard_bw_2012The story of our theatres would not be complete without special mention of OSF’s senior theatre and scenic designer, Richard L Hay. His creative work has spanned more than 50 years at the Festival, designing stage sets for more than 200 productions including the entire Shakespearean canon. Hay made modifications to the second Elizabethan Stage in the 1950s, and was the principal influence on the design of all Festival theatres since the rebuilding of the current Elizabethan Stage in 1959.