How Hoyt Sherman Place plans to celebrate 100 years with tribute show 'Once Upon This Stage'
Hoyt Sherman Place is turning 100 and the theater is celebrating its engaging centennial season with an event that looks back at the history of the venue and the entertainers who graced the stage while looking forward to the future.
The storied theater and event venue, located at 1501 Woodland Ave. in the historic Sherman Hill neighborhood near downtown Des Moines, is planning a unique stage show for one night only to pay tribute to 100 years of entertainment for metro area audiences.
The event, titled "Once Upon This Stage," is executive director Robert Warren's love letter to The Des Moines Women's Club as a show of thanks for the organization's support for Hoyt Sherman Place over a 100-year span.
"It's a way to give them additional exposure in a nighttime public performance," Warren said.
The women's club began renting the space from the city of Des Moines in 1907 at the price of just $1 per year, part of a 100-year contract. The women's club eventually added the theater and, despite a World War I-related delay, construction was completed in time to host the first show in 1923.
"It's really just a magical place," Warren said. "The respect from the audience members, particularly the younger generation who've been able to come in and see their favorite artist in this Victorian mansion and walk through to get a drink at the bar, it's just really cool."
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"Once Upon This Stage" will honor seven world-class artists who signed the venue's original guestbook at the theater during its first 25 years. The original artists that will be honored are composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay, performer Will Rogers, dancer Agnes de Mille, entertainer Vincent Price, fine artist Grant Wood, and famed Iowa composer Meredith Willson.
Warren, who coined the event a "once in a lifetime performance," said the show will feature a variety-style offering of performances as modern-day acts such as local rapper B.Well and Ballet Des Moines pay tribute to the seven original artists.
'Once Upon This Stage' features modern-day acts honoring historic artists
The Des Moines Metro Concert Band will honor Philip Sousa, rapper B.Well alongside the Des Moines Metro opera will pay tribute to St. Vincent Millay, the Drake University Theatre Department is recognizing Rogers, Ballet Des Moines honors de Mille, Urbandale's professional dance studio Dance Vision is celebrating Price, men's vocal ensemble Vox Infinitus alongside Lani and Tapestry will pay their respects to Willson while landscape artist Alan Lampe recognizes Wood.
The Des Moines Art Center, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and private collector Michael Zahs loaned some of Wood's artwork to Hoyt Sherman Place as well.
More:Hoyt Sherman Place at 100: How programming has blossomed from blank marquee to 100 events
The event builds on Warren's mission as executive director
Warren has a simple philosophy as executive director of Hoyt Sherman Place in the same vein as the "Field of Dreams" — find something for everyone.
"If you don't sacrifice on the talent or the heart and you offer a variety of artists, of all demographics, the facility will be successful," Warren said of his approach to leading the organization, which he joined as executive director in 2015.
In recent years, Warren has brought much-anticipated country acts such as Carly Pearce alongside internet comedy acts such as left leaning talking head Randy Rainbow. Creating an event like "Once Upon This Stage" builds on Warren's mission by intersecting the Des Moines Metro Opera with digital artist Alan Lampe.
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Hoyt Sherman Place's centennial season includes one more stop
In addition to "Once Upon This Stage," Hoyt Sherman Place has one more way to end its centennial season.
"Our last big project for the centennial, which is on schedule to open before we end the season with 'Jazz in July,' is the outdoor plaza and stage, which was first designed in 2010," Warren added. "It will be a nice capstone for our centennial season."
The plaza project, which was first announced in January, is a $500,000 lawn enhancement plan that will construct an outdoor plaza and stage on the southern edge of the venue's lawn. The plaza will lie parallel to Woodland Avenue.
How to see 'Once Upon This Stage'
When: March 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines
Tickets: $25 to $75 online
Jay Stahl is an entertainment reporter at The Des Moines Register. Follow him on Instagram or reach out at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Hoyt Sherman Place celebrates 100 years with 'Once Upon This Stage'