Calling all theater buffs! Indianapolis steps into the spotlight with a number of diverse performing arts venues, each offering its own unique atmosphere and spin on live theater. Film, music, dance, drama—there’s something here for everyone. Don your best duds and make a night (or afternoon) of it at any of these local theater destinations.
Old National Centre
The biggest touring shows that come through town (“Hamilton,” most recently), nationally known bands, celebrities, and comedians tend to stop at the Old National Centre in the landmark Moorish-style Murat Shrine Temple built in 1909. Showcasing a stunning chandelier and bespoke decor, the handsome main space holds orchestra and balcony seating for 2,500 guests. The theater’s location in the middle of downtown’s buzzy Mass Ave Cultural District lends itself nicely to grabbing a bite at one of the city’s trendiest restaurants before the performance or a nightcap at a cozy bar afterward. Meanwhile, the on-site Grand Lobby provides room to mix and mingle with fellow patrons over a drink during intermission. Parking is available at the theater lot, at metered spots, and in pay lots scattered throughout the downtown area.
Clowes Memorial Hall
On the scenic Butler University campus, Clowes Memorial Hall is quite a multitasking venue, sharing Broadway tour hosting duties with the Old National Centre for shows like “Rent,” “Cats,” and “Come From Away,” as well as offering a diverse slate of concerts, ballet performances, recitals, orchestra, opera, drama, kids’ shows, and other visiting artists. Part of the larger Butler Arts Center family, the Clowes Hall facility opened in 1963 and holds seating for 2,123 patrons across the main floor, box seats, and three terraces. Event parking is available in a paid garage structure just behind the theater; be watchful for university parking restrictions in the campus lots.
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Sited within a circa-1927 Paramount Pictures movie palace, the Indiana Repertory Theatre—“IRT” for short—sits pretty on Washington Street downtown, impossible to miss under an elaborately carved facade and neon-lit marquee. The performance slate features nine productions each year, a mix of modern Broadway shows and beloved favorites, culminating in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” each holiday season. Rumor has it, the ghost of a late artistic director likes to jog around the upper mezzanine level. Visitors can find a wealth of pre-show dining options in the neighborhood, and parking in paid downtown garages and at metered street spaces.
Beef & Boards Dinner Theater
In the College Park business development on Indy’s northwest side, Beef and Boards Dinner Theater has been delighting hungry patrons since 1973 with a full dinner buffet served before familiar plays and productions like “Steel Magnolias,” “Elf,” “An American in Paris” and “The Sound of Music.” The only full-time Actors’ Equity Association theater of its kind in Indiana (and one of just seven such remaining facilities in the U.S.), Beef & Boards sources talent locally and from bigger markets like Chicago and New York. Executive Chef Odell Ward oversees themed buffet menus specifically tailored to each show, all featuring the venue’s famous hand-carved roast beef, with decadent desserts served during intermission. Guests can park for free in the surrounding College Park lots.
Guests can get up close to their favorite Broadway vamps, divas, and torch singers within the sultry candlelit confines of the Cabaret, a venue that’s managed to carve out its own unique niche within the larger Indianapolis theater community landscape. Show formats blend music and conversation to create a very personal experience that’s hard to come by at much bigger venues. In the true cabaret tradition, patrons sit at tables and can order off dinner and cocktail menus during performances, while sparse staging keeps the focus solidly on the performers. Room for just 186 guests guarantees there’s not a bad seat in the house. Metered street parking and a small lot are available.
Hilbert Circle Theatre
On downtown Monument Circle, Hilbert Circle Theatre is home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The venue also hosts visiting performers, film screenings with live orchestra soundtracks, and the annual holiday Yuletide Celebration each December. The facility dates back to 1916, constructed in Neo-Classical Revival style as a tribute to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. Extensive renovations in the 1980s and in 2013 provided updates to bring the facility well into the 21st century while mindfully preserving its history. Inside, the theater holds comfortable space for 1,660 visitors in the main orchestra seating area and balcony. Valet parking is available along with metered street parking and self-parking in paid garages and lots.
Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts
It’s not technically within Indianapolis city limits, but the 1,600-seat Palladium, part of the world-class Center for the Performing Arts campus to the north in Carmel’s Arts and Design district, merits inclusion for its European panache, exquisite decor, and jaw-dropping acoustics. Six resident acting companies, symphony orchestras, and dance ensembles perform at the Palladium and at two other campus venues; the Center also houses offices for the Great American Songbook Foundation. Recent shows and performances span the artistic gamut from “Sweeney Todd” and Chris Botti to John Hiatt and Gladys Knight. The facility maintains free parking for patrons in an on-site garage with valet parking available. Street parking is also an option, but make sure to follow any posted neighborhood guidelines and restrictions.
Phoenix Theater and Culture Center
If your theater tastes run more toward modern productions that challenge viewers and push boundaries, head downtown where you’ll find Indy’s most progressive theater venue. The socially conscious Phoenix Theater and Culture Center presents thought-provoking material on two stages (130 and 75 seats) while supporting and encouraging creative development through a collective group of emerging talent. Park at a metered street spot or in one of several area surface lots and garages.