Walnut Street Theatre

Walnut Street Theatre

Infobox Theatre
name = Walnut Street Theatre

caption =
address = 825 Walnut Street
city = Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
country = United States
designation = National Historic Landmark
latitude =
longitude =
architect = William Strickland
owner = Non-profit Organization
capacity = 1054
type =
opened = 1809
yearsactive =
rebuilt = 1828, John Haviland
1903, Willis Hale
1920, William H. Lee
closed =
othernames = The New Circus
The Olympic
production =
currentuse =
website = www.walnutstreettheatre.org
The Walnut Street Theatre (or simply The Walnut), located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 825 Walnut Street, is the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English-speaking world and the oldest in the United States. [ [http://www.explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=817 ExplorePAhistory.com] ] The venue has three stages: the Mainstage, for the company's primary and larger productions, the Independence Studio on 3, a studio located on the building's third floor for smaller productions, and the Studio 5 on the fifth floor, which is rented out for independent productions.


The Walnut Street Theatre was built by the Circus of Pepin and Breschard, which toured the United States from 1807 until 1815. Pepin and Breschard constructed numerous venues in cities along the East Coast of the United States, which often featured, along with performances of their circus, classical plays as well as horse dramas. The theatre was founded in 1809, going by the name of The New Circus. In 1811, the two partners commissioned architect William Strickland to design and construct a stage and orchestra pit for theatrical performances and the theatre's name was changed to The Olympic. The first use of The Walnut Street Theatre as its name occurred in 1820, however it was changed back to The Olympic in 1822 and then back again to The Walnut, this time for good, in 1828.

The Walnut was the first theatre to install gas footlights in 1837. In 1855 it was also the first theatre to feature air conditioning. The theatre switched to electric chandeliers and footlights in 1892. The theatre has undergone many renovations since its opening.

The first theatrical production at the theatre was "The Rivals" in 1812 (President Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette were in attendance). Edwin Booth and John Sleeper Clarke purchased the theatre in 1865, and then the theatre became part of The Shubert Organization in 1941. While part of the Shubert chain, the theatre housed many pre-Broadway tryouts of soon-to-be classics, including:
*"A Streetcar Named Desire" with Marlon Brando (1947)
*"Mister Roberts" with Henry Fonda (1948)
*"Gigi" with Audrey Hepburn (1951)
*"The Diary of Anne Frank" with Susan Strasberg (1955)
*"A Raisin in the Sun" with Sidney Poitier (1959)
*"A Man For All Seasons" starring Paul Scofield (1961)

Infobox_nrhp | name =Walnut Street Theatre
nrhp_type = nhl

caption = Drawing by Charles Burton, c. 1830
location= Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
lat_degrees = 39
lat_minutes = 56
lat_seconds = 54
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 75
long_minutes = 9
long_seconds = 20
long_direction = W
locmapin = Pennsylvania
area =
built =1809
architect= John Haviland
architecture= Classical Revival
added = October 15, 1966
governing_body = Private
refnum=66000693cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
On October 15, 1966, The Walnut Street Theatre was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1969, the theatre was purchased by a non-profit organization and turned over to the new Walnut Street Theatre Corporation. On September 23, 1976, it was the site of the first presidential debate between Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. The Walnut Street Theatre Company was formed in 1983, a non-profit regional producing company. In 1984, the Walnut Street Theatre School was established and over 1,200 students enroll annually, and 1986 introduced the Independence Studio on 3 series.

To this day, the company produces five productions a season on the theatre's main stage and is the most subscribed theatre company in the world. In Fall 2008, it will celebrate its 200th season of live entertainment.


Further reading

* Webster, Richard J., "Philadelphia Preserved". Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976.
* Teitelman, Edward, and Richard W. Longstreth, "Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide". Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974.
* Havard, Bernard and Sylvester, Mark D., "Walnut Street Theatre". Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2008

External links

* [http://www.walnutstreettheatre.org Walnut Street Theatre Online] - official website
* [http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.pa1339 Listing and photographs] at the Historic American Buildings Survey
* [http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/pj_display.cfm/20373 Listing and photographs] at Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
* [http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=518&ResourceType=Building National Historic Landmark Listing] at the National Park Service
* [http://www.explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=817 ExplorePAhistory.com]

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