Live theatre is one of the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet. There’s sports, concerts, and theatre. Nothing else compares to the live attribute that those three have in common. Theatre is a form of performing art with actors and actresses presenting an experience of real or imagined events in front of an audience. The Iowa City area is known for its’ abundance of live theatre options. Big or small, there is always an opportunity to go see something. After all – Iowa City is “The Greatest Small City for the Arts”.
The Englert Theatre
A popular spot in the area is The Englert Theatre in Downtown Iowa City. This theatre has a long history, opening in September of 1912 and has been housing shows in some capacity ever since. Right now, The Englert Theatre holds 725 people on two levels. The Englert’s schedule is a mix of plays, concerts, dance, and stand-up comedy. Their famous marquee is a defining feature of Downtown Iowa City, and the perfect backdrop for a photo.
Riverside Theatre is a professional theatre company located on the Ped Mall in Downtown Iowa City. Opening in 1981, they flourished at their original location on N. Gilbert St. before moving to their current and bigger location in February 2022. The new location has 150 seats and gives them more flexibility to stage productions that were not possible before. Their seats have the capabilities to move throughout the theatre giving audience members a new experience every time they visit. During the summer months, Riverside presents Free Shakespeare in the Park on their Festival Stage which is a 427-seat outdoor theatre in Lower City Park.
Willow Creek Theatre Company
Willow Creek Theatre Company is the area’s newest theatre opening in in late 2019. The theatre opened its’ S Gilbert St. location in early 2020. Willow Creek Theater Company is a performing arts company that focuses on providing opportunities for new and upcoming artists to pursue their passions of theatre. They are smaller compared to the others in the area but are not lacking in entertainment. If you’re a small artist starting out or a full company looking for space for your next event, book your next show at Willow Creek!
The James Theatre
In April of 2021, The James Theatre took over the former Riverside Theatre location on N. Gilbert St. After completing renovations to the space, it will serve as a theatre space for emerging local performers from high school age and up. The theatre is available for rent for small touring acts and events. The theatre has 11-seats, giving the audience an intimate experience with each performance.
The biggest building for theatre in our community is Hancher Auditorium located on Park Rd. in Iowa City. It has the capacity to seat 1,800 people on three levels but trust us, there is not a bad seat in the house. The original building opened in 1972, however it was closed after the 2008 flood. Hancher opened the doors to its new, world-class, iconic building in 2016. Since, 1972, Hancher has shown a wide variety of performances; touring Broadway musicals, lectures, theatre, and live concerts. It is owned and operated by the University of Iowa.
Coralville Center for the Performing Arts
The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts is a two-level 472-seat theatre located on 5th St. It opened in August 2011 and is owned and operated by the City of Coralville. The theatre is offered as a rental space for performing arts groups and more. The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts is home to the City Circle Theatre Company which focuses on bringing professional-caliber theater to the heart of Coralville. City Circle performs year-round.
Iowa City Community Theatre
The Iowa City Community Theatre is a 100% volunteer theatrical production group that was formed in 1956. Right now, they perform at the Johnson County Fairgrounds and produce a variety of amateur shows throughout the year that is appealing to many audiences. As an all-volunteer theatre group, members build their own sets, costumes, and other items necessary for each show. The theatre group has deeps roots in the community and are committed to putting on great performances that are as entertaining as professional shows.
University of Iowa Theatre of Arts
The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts says on their website they are one of the oldest theatre programs in the country with over 90 years in business. The department is made up of college students and faculty and has supported the development of new plays by students, faculty, and guests. Their live performances are held at three different locations. The 138-seat Alan MacVey Theatre, the 457-seat E.C. Mabie Theatre, and the 177-seat David Thayer Theatre. Photo credit to R. Eric Stone and Jordan Jones courtesy of the Department of Theatre Arts.