Theater in Northeast Ohio

Locals love to brag about Playhouse Square, the largest theater district in the country outside of New York’s Lincoln Center but that’s just the beginning. From nationally touring Broadway productions to local repertory theaters to opera’s biggest rising stars, Northeast Ohio’s theater scene steals the show.

HIDDEN GEMS: Cleveland Area /Akron Area

ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS: ClevelandSuburbs West,  Suburbs East,  Suburbs South


Allen Theatre
Cleveland Play House performances take place in three state-of-the-art theatres located in downtown Cleveland.
Photo: Courtesy of Playhouse Square

Cleveland Play House (CPH) (Cuyahoga County)
Cleveland Play House, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theater. Over its long history, more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 Cleveland Play House productions, whose notable alumni include Paul Newman, Alan Alda, Margaret Hamilton and Joel Grey. (Alda and Grey still serve on the Board of Directors.) Numerous high-profile plays have premiered at Cleveland Play House, including Tennessee Williams’ You Touched Me, Arthur Miller’s The Archbishop’s Ceiling and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. In 1989, CPH became the first company to produce The Glass Menagerie with an African-American cast. The company has performed at Playhouse Square since 2009, and the future of CPH looks just as bright. Its Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts program earned a spot on the Hollywood Reporter International list of top 25 graduate acting programs in 2018 and 2019. (1407 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland 44115; 216.241.6000;

Cleveland Public Theatre (Cuyahoga County)
Since its founding in 1981, Cleveland Public Theater (CPT) has grown from a volunteer-artist-driven organization to a staff of 34 with an annual operating budget of $2.5 million. In the last ten years, the theater has produced more than 55 world premieres, 45 of which were by local artists, and has earned a national reputation for developing new plays and producing innovative interpretations of classic works. It has also played a major role in the economic redevelopment of Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, co-founding the Gordon Square Arts District in the 1990s and bringing not only the theater but restaurants, galleries and other small businesses to the area. CPT’s commitment to the community goes even further: Each year it engages nearly 1,000 youth and at-risk adults who are given the chance to perform for under-served audiences in parks, shelters, prisons, treatment centers and other public locations. (6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland 44102; 216.631.2727;

Great Lakes Theater (Cuyahoga County)
Formed in 1962 as the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, this professional classic theater has been bringing the world’s greatest plays to life ever since. Its first artistic director was Arthur Lithgow, father of John Lithgow. Since then, the likes of Piper Laurie, Jean Stapleton, Hal Holbrook, Olympia Dukakis and other famous thespians have crossed its stage. In 1982, Great Lakes Theater moved from its original venue in Lakewood to Playhouse Square, where it now performs each season, from September to May, at the Hanna Theatre. Great Lakes Theater also has a unique producing partnership with the Idaho and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals. Over the past eight seasons, the companies have shared thirty productions with a single resident artistic company. (2067 E. 14th Street, Cleveland 44115; 216.241.6000;

Karamu House (Cuyahoga County)
Karamu House is a nationally acclaimed nonprofit arts center dedicated to African American culture, interracial theater and arts education for all. Founded in 1915 and the country’s oldest African American theater, Karamu House served as a common ground for Clevelanders of different races, religions, and social and economic backgrounds. The influential 20th-century poet and playwright Langston Hughes, a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, was a student at Karamu House; in the mid-1930s, he premiered several of his plays there. Today, Karamu House remains an inclusive community-based performing arts center, where audiences of all ages enjoy groundbreaking theater and musical productions. (2355 E. 89th Street, Cleveland 44106; 216.795.7077;

Oberlin Theater (Lorain County)
Each year, the prestigious Oberlin College Department of Theater presents a season of theatrical offerings including three faculty- or guest-directed mainstage productions and several student-directed projects. The productions take place at Oberlin’s first-rate theatrical, cultural and musical facilities on the Oberlin campus: Hall Auditorium, a 500-seat theater used for large-scale dramatic, opera and dance productions; Wurtzel Theater, a 300-seat venue; and Kander Theater, a 75-seat black box performance space for student projects. (67 N. Main Street, Oberlin 44074; 440.775.8169;

Ohio Shakepeare Festival
Ohio Shakespeare Festival's outdoor production of "The Comedy of Errors." / Photo: Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Ohio Shakespeare Festival (Summit County)
Ohio Shakespeare Festival in Akron is a professional theater company dedicated primarily to the works of Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights throughout the ages. The company performs six plays a year—four at Greystone Hall (103 S. High Street, Akron 44308) and two outdoors at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (714 N. Portage Path, Akron 44303). Don’t miss their popular ShakesBEER events, which take place in the lobby bar at Greystone Hall and include everything from drunk readings of Shakespeare's funniest scripts to bawdy Greenshow songs performed open-mic style. (888.718.4253;

Players Guild Theatre (Stark County)
Founded in 1932, and housed at Canton’s Cultural Center for the Arts since 1971, the Players Guild Theatre is recognized as one of the oldest continually operating theaters in the nation. Throughout its history, the Players Guild has produced over 600 productions for audience members spanning several generations, while offering professional and amateur acting opportunities for members of the community. (1001 Market Avenue N., Canton 44702; 330.453.7619;

Porthouse Theater
Picnicking before a show on the grounds of Porthouse Theatre is encouraged. / Photo courtesy of Porthouse Theatre/Kent State University

Porthouse Theatre (Summit County)
Porthouse Theatre, located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, is Kent State University's summer professional theater. Every season, more than 20,000 patrons enjoy professional theater productions in the comfortable, 500-seat covered outdoor theater. Picnicking beforehand on the 130-acre grounds or in one of two pavilions is not only encouraged but considered an integral part of the experience. (3143 O'Neil Road, Cuyahoga Falls 44223; 330.672.3884;