History of the facility
"The stage (University Theatre) adjoining the Auditorium stage, known for all these years as the stage of the Little Theatre, has a golden history of its own and has been so productive of luminaries and such a magnet to students with ambitions in the theater that the Theatre and its reputation are virtually bursting at the seams."
—IU Chancellor Herman B Wells, March 23, 1991
The elegant facility housing the majestic new IU Cinema is accustomed to providing a warm, welcoming environment to audiences looking for an evening of theater.
The building started its life on March 22, 1941, as the University Theatre, or "Little Theatre," a space within the then-new Indiana University Auditorium.
Built with guidance from IU President Herman B Wells and comptroller Ward G Biddle, the University Theatre provided a home for an already flourishing tradition of drama and performance at IU and established a permanent performance arena for the Department of Theatre and Drama. The facility included a proscenium stage, two prop rooms, a scenic design room, a Green Room, two chorus rooms, four dressing rooms and seven staff offices.
The IU Auditorium and University Theatre building was funded as a Federal Works Agency Project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent a letter to Wells commemorating the building's dedication. Now housed in the IU Archives, the letter reads, in part:
The building you are dedicating is a source of pride to your National Government as well as to the State of Indiana. It stands as a fitting monument to the capacity of the American form of government to promote the welfare and happiness of its citizens in a period of great stress.
Now, when democracy faces an even greater crisis, it is reassuring to know that it can preserve and promote the arts of peace as well as defend its civilization against assault from any source.
Very sincerely yours,
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Located in the heart of IU's Bloomington campus, the IU Auditorium and University Theatre building has been host to an array of artists, entertainers, musicians, world leaders and lecturers for the past 60 years, with a diverse guest list that includes Helen Hayes, Mikhail Gorbachev, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby, the Metropolitan Opera Company and the Broadway touring cast of Les Miserables.
University Theatre continued to set the stage for IU's theater program until January 2002, when IU opened the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, with two vital new performance spaces adjacent to the old building. Since that time, the old stage has been empty — but patiently waiting — for its next run.