The Playhouse Square Theater District on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland is known as the 2nd largest by number of seats in the United States, behind Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The 4 major theaters once could seat nearly 10,000 people, although that number has diminished a bit with remodeling.
On the first Saturday of each month a small army of volunteers offer free behind the scenes tours. Lead by our amazing tour guide Lil, we were fortunate in that we chose a day that they were between shows in the theaters, so we were able to go on the stages and in the dressing rooms for all the theaters.
First up is the largest, the State Theater. Opened, along with all the other theaters, in a 19 month period between 1921-1922, the State originally seated 3,400.
Built in an Italian Renaissance style for vaudeville shows and movies, it has what was the worlds longest lobby at 320′ as it was built at the back of the lot so the theater next door, the Ohio Theater, could also have frontage on Euclid Avenue.
As the tour took us backstage you got a feel for how massive the stage and the rigging are to support the theater. This theater’s rigging have been modernized, we would later get a sense for how much compared to the non-updated ones.
Next door is the Palace Theater (recently renamed Connor Palace to honor a major donor). This theater was built in the French Renaissance style, and features beautiful entry doors.
The main lobby is known as the Great Hall. Amazingly in the early 1970s all the theaters we close to being torn down to make parking lots, but fortunately the local arts community was persistent and saved all of them. It has taken the community many years and millions of dollars but all have been restored, and in some cases reconfigured for smaller theaters.
Front the balcony of the Palace we were treated to a performance from one of the resident organists.
Later we were able to visit up close for a demonstration of the amazing capabilities of the organ, as well as some behind the scenes history of the recovery and restoration of the organ.
The entryway to the Ohio Theater features an amazing ceiling. (all of the ceilings are stunning, this is the best).
From the stage the lighting, seating and ceiling make an impressive photo.
Backstage gets a view of the un-restored rigging (the massive collection of ropes on the right), as well as all of the lighting riggings.
Another amazing ceiling and light, the entrance to the Allen Theater.
The columns of the Allen Theater entrance have intricate carvings.
The Allen has been downsized and modernized, although the original balconies and boxes are hidden behind the fabrics on the sides in case they want to return it to it’s original state. The second half of this theater has been transformed into a ‘Theater in the Round’ format.
Playhouse Square is one of the best features of Cleveland, and the Saturday morning tours are amazing (and free).