The Early History of The Cleveland Play House (1915-1984)

Cleveland Play House Complex
The Cleveland Play House Complex, 1983. View image.
The “nation’s oldest
continuously running
resident theater company”

The Cleveland Play House was first conceived in 1915 at the home of Charles and Minerva Brooks. The first productions were performed at the Ammon house on the estate of Francis Drury and, for a brief period, in a barn behind the house. In 1917 The Play House found a new home in an old Lutheran Church at E. 73rd and Cedar Avenue. This would remain their home for 10 years until they finally relocated to their present location at Euclid and E. 86th Street.

From its modest beginnings on the estate of Francis Drury The Cleveland Play House has grown to become one of the largest regional theaters in the United States. It is the “nation’s oldest continuously running resident theater company” (Oldenburg, 1985). See a timeline of events.

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The triumvirate looks on
The Play House's famed triumvirate, Frederick McConnell,
director, K. Elmo Lowe, assistant director & Max
Eisenstat, backstage manager, 1955. View image.

The Cleveland Play House, though, is more than just the sum of its buildings. In particular, it is the vision of its founders, managers and artistic directors, and the legacy of those who treaded the boards, some of whom went on to national fame, that best define The Play House and will follow the company no matter the venue.

Scene from First Monday in October
Celebrated actor Melvyn Douglas in
a scene from First Monday in October.
The production marked The Play House's
60th anniversary, 1975. View image.

 This Web site, a collaborative effort between The Cleveland Play House and the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University, contains images of the theatres, prominent figures and future luminaries of the stage as well as the productions that comprise the history of The Cleveland Play House from its inception in 1915 to 1983-84, when the new complex was unveiled.

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Credits and

This website is the practicum project of Library and Information Science student, Thomas Kubat. He would especially like to thank The Cleveland Play House and its esteemed board members who were very gracious in collaborating with him on the creation of this collection and allowing access to their archives. He would also like to thank the Michael Schwartz Library staff in Special Collections, the Digital Production Unit and Library Systems for their help and guidance.