Curtain Up: 17 Places to Experience Pure Michigan Theatre

Whether you’re interested in a Shakespearean tragedy or a performance of Wicked, a classic rendering of A Streetcar Named Desire or a contemporary theatrical premiere, you’ll find live theater productions throughout the Great Lakes State in venues from classic to contemporary that are themselves a unique part of the experience.

inside the capitol theater - empty theater with blue lights
Flint Capitol Theater | courtesy Pure Michigan

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Head to one of these 17 Pure Michigan venues and let the show begin.

  1. Fisher Theatre, Detroit

Originally opened as a movie and vaudeville theater in 1928, the Fisher sits within Detroit’s Fisher Building, an Art Deco masterpiece. The theater is adorned with marble, rosewood, decorative crystal and bronze and is known for its Broadway-style shows.

  1. Arthur Miller Theatre, Ann Arbor

One of the University of Michigan’s most prized performance venues is the Arthur Miller Theatre. The intimate 250-seat theatre, the only one in the world permitted to bear Arthur Miller’s name, is named for the U of M alum and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright famous for The Crucible and Death of a Salesman.

  1. Power Center for the Performing Arts, Ann Arbor

Another University of Michigan theater, the Power Center has the distinction of appearing large but feeling intimate, since none of the theater’s 1,300 seats lies more than 72 feet from the stage. Catch classical and contemporary plays, often starring university students.  

  1. Purple Rose Theatre, Chelsea

Actor and playwright Jeff Daniels, known for his roles in Terms of Endearment, Dumb and Dumber, and The Martian, opened this popular theater in his hometown of Chelsea to emphasize works from America’s heartland, including plays written by Daniels himself. The theater’s 168 seats are all located less than 20 feet from the stage, promising attendees an intimate experience.

  1. Wharton Center for Performing Arts, East Lansing

Michigan State University’s primary performing arts venue hosts a wide variety of programs on its multiple stages. Shows range from Broadway-style extravaganzas to smaller comedies, performed by professional actors and the university’s theater students.

  1. Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo

One of West Michigan’s finest performing arts venues, Miller Auditorium sits on the campus of Western Michigan University and features productions of comedies, musicals, adult dramas and family shows in a space that dates from 1968. 

  1. DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids

More than 2,500 attendees can be seated at this theatrical space in downtown Grand Rapids. In addition to staging musicals and live theater, DeVos Performance Hall hosts the Grand Rapids Ballet, the Grand Rapids Symphony, and Opera Grand Rapids.

  1. Hope Summer Repertory Theater, Holland

Considered one of the finest seasonal repertory theaters in the country, this summertime theater series on the Hope College campus stages half a dozen shows each year, from Greek tragedies to contemporary works, and from Shakespeare to musicals like Hair.

  1. Frauenthal Center, Muskegon

This theater in downtown Muskegon was built in 1929 to evoke a Spanish castle and to showcase talking movies. Authentic Moorish design, including a red and gold interior, glimmering chandeliers, and soaring stone pillars, still adorn the theater, which produces musicals, comedies, and drama.

  1. Flint Cultural Center, Flint

A collection of eight arts institutions is under the umbrella of the Flint Cultural Center, which includes a symphony orchestra, an art museum, and a planetarium. The center operates three theater venues: The Whiting, a 2,000-seat auditorium for large and internationally recognized companies; the smaller Art Deco Capitol Theatre, for more intimate performances; and the Flint Repertory Theatre, a professional youth and adult theater focused on world premieres and new interpretations of classical works.

  1. Midland Center for the Arts, Midland

Science, history, fine and performing arts occupy a single building at the Midland Center for the Arts. In addition to a science and art museum, the center includes 1,500- and 400-seat venues that stage community theater and professional Broadway acts, family-oriented plays and stage adaptations of beloved books.

  1. Old Town Playhouse, Traverse City

Constructed as the First Christian Church in 1903, the Old Town Playhouse has served as a performing arts venue since 1975. Musicals and plays in this popular 277-seat theater range from holiday comedies and Disney classics to thought-provoking dramas.

  1. Great Lakes Center for the Arts, Petoskey

Northern Michigan’s newest performing arts center is located within Bay Harbor, west of Petoskey, near Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. The 525-seat theater was built in 2018 and offers cultural events ranging from lectures to musical performances and stage classics such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

  1. Rogers City Theater, Rogers City

Built in 1937 as a movie house, the Art Deco Rogers City Theater is owned by the Presque Isle District Library and offers performing arts opportunities in this small town in northeastern Michigan. Staged largely by community actors, Rogers City Theater presents live theater as well as stand-up comedy, concerts, and new and classic films. 

  1. Soo Theatre, Sault Ste. Marie

Musicals, classic dramas, operas, and comedy performances fill the events calendar at this former movie theater in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. The venue also offers instructional workshops to teach the basics of theater tech, performing arts appreciation, singing, and acting.

exterior of forest roberts theatre in northern michigan university
Forest Roberts Theatre | courtesy Northern Michigan University
  1. Forest Roberts Theatre, Marquette

The premier theater on the Northern Michigan University Campus, and one of the finest in the state, the Forest Roberts Theatre features a full-size orchestra pit and seating for 515 patrons. Expect performances ranging from musical comedies to classical dramas, often staged by NMU students or Marquette’s Superior Arts Youth Theater.

  1. Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, Houghton

This beautiful entertainment venue sits in the heart of the Michigan Technological University Campus near the Keweenaw Waterway. Look for theater, music, musicals, and art displays and a unique “Pay As You’re Able” ticketing program.

About the Author: Amy S. Eckert writes about travel in destinations around the world from her home base in Holland, Michigan.