The history of live theater (or if you prefer, theatre) in Denver has always been strong, from Apollo Hall opening its doors in 1861, to the thriving theatre row on Curtis Street in the 1920s and ‘30s. In 1914, Denver was number one in the country in theater attendance, with an average of 100,000 people attending shows daily, in a city whose population at the time was only 230,000.
100 years later, live theater is still big in Denver, with the Mile High City once again ranking number one nationally for performing arts attendance. The landscape has changed, but some of the city’s theatrical history is preserved in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) complex, where the original façade of some of Denver’s most historic theaters can still be seen.
It’s an amazing place to catch a play, but there’s more to Denver’s bustling theater and performing arts scene in Denver than the DCPA.
Here are five places besides the DCPA where you can catch a glimpse of local, professional-level talent in unique settings:
Lone Tree Arts Center
Coloradans will appreciate the LEED certified, environmentally friendly Lone Tree Arts Center (LTAC) near I-25 and Lincoln Ave. LTAC is an innovative, new facility, built in 2008.
If you’re looking for an intimate theater experience, this is it: every seat was designed to be closer than 60 feet from the stage. That is, of course if you’re seeing a show inside. There’s also a 350-seat outdoor terrace theater for special presentations.
Shows run the gamut at LTAC, from locally produced originals to national and international touring acts. State of the art technology, including a system that broadcasts audio directly into hearing aids, will make a visit here one you won’t soon forget.
Town Hall Arts Center
The theater is located in what truly once was LIttleton’s Town Hall, originally built in the 1920s and revitalized in the ‘80s. Besides catching a show on the main stage, THAC offers classes for students of any age, as well as a very accessible location, right off the C and D lines of Denver’s light rail system.
Looking for a bite before the show? THAC has even put together a handy dining guide for you.
Mizel Arts and Culture Center (MACC)
Catch one of the several shows the non-profit resident company puts on every year, or visit for one of the many other performing arts opportunities, from children’s plays to the Wolf Theatre Academy, where young actors from kindergarten to high school can work with real-world theater professionals.
With just 99 seats in the MACC’s Pluss Theater, you’re guaranteed an intimate performance that’s hard to find elsewhere in Denver.
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
It’s hard to miss the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities (more commonly simply called, “the Arvada Center”) with the large sculpture park just outside its doors along Wadsworth Blvd.
The Arvada Center is also home to art galleries, a historical museum and a state-of-the-art theater with a robust annual schedule. Not only is the Arvada Center a great alternative to DCPA, it’s one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary arts centers, period.
A perfect place for catching shows on par with anywhere else in the state — or maybe even country — you won’t be disappointed after seeing a show at the Arvada Center.
We’ll admit, this one is a bit of tease, as current renovations to the historic Elitch Theatre are still underway, and regular programming won’t take place until they’re completed. Still, you can catch the occasional live performance, attend a tour or check out the historic space during the yearly summer film series.
Located on the site of the original Elitch Gardens amusement park in northwest Denver, the Elitch Theatre was founded in 1891. The theater has a nearly unparalleled history, hosting the stage debut of Antoinette Perry (known as Tony, and the person those fancy theater awards happen to be named after), and opening their doors to stars from Douglas Fairbanks to William Shatner to Cecil B. DeMille.
Keep an eye out for news as renovations are completed, or join a tour and imagine yourself enjoying the amazing performances that will be coming soon.