For nearly 80 years, Custer State Park has been home to a wide range of shows at The Black Hills Playhouse. The theater has really grown—and in more aspects than one.

While many may habitually come to the theater house annually to celebrate anniversaries or just as an enthusiast of musicals and plays, the Black Hills Playhouse does more than just theater in Custer State Park.

Linda Anderson, executive director, said, “The Black Hills Playhouse is a regional theater dedicated to delivering exceptional performances and spreading theatrical education to strengthen South Dakota communities.”

In addition to their creative and interesting showbill, the BHP family of programs provides several opportunities throughout the year that engage a diverse audience statewide. Dakota Players Tours takes educational programs to communities of all sizes across the state.

“Going on 23 years now, the touring group travels up to 40 locations to bring theater education opportunities to small communities that don’t often have the pleasure to interact with professional theatre artists,” explained Anderson.

As they travel, the program primarily works with children, kindergarten through eighth grade. Another youth program that the theater runs includes BHP Jr. Camps. These performing arts camps work with older youth from 5th-12th grade. Additionally, working with both youth and adults, the Playhouse employs professional artists to conduct The Expanding Stage program.

Anderson said, “The Expanding Stage program collaborates with those who have disabilities. We offer classes that either lead to participants performing for friends and family or attending a theater performance in the community.”

605’s John Snyder and Taylor Hanson attended The Mountaintop by American Playwright Katori Hall. The fictional depiction is about Martin Luther King Jr. and is set in room 306 in the Lorraine Hotel on the evening of his assassination in 1968.

Over the past 11 years, the BHP campus has grown into something outstanding. It’s like no other theater operation in South Dakota and is easily one of the largest performing arts organizations in the region.

Outside of their program and outreach work, the BHP has seen quite a few costume changes and makeovers itself through the years.

Anderson shared, “We started attracting audiences to a tent out by Legion Lake in the park, moved to the current theater we use in 1956, and since 2007 now have newly renovated buildings, housing for our professionals, shops for set, props, and costume design, and more.”

Coming Soon

Check out what’s happening on stage in 2023

Silent Sky // June 9-July 2

The Lifespan of a Fact // June 10-June 30

The Drowsy Chaperone // July 9-July 23

9 to 5 the Musical // July 30-August 12

“Family Friendly is subjective to the particular values of any given family. You definitely want to read up about the shows before booking extra tickets for your kids, and use your own discretion.” -Linda Anderson

Glimpse through A Different Lens this 2023 season and join the BHP for some incredible shows. Geared toward a more mature audience, the line-up for shows this year is exciting and thought-provoking.

While you can get a full read-out of the shows online, Anderson shared a few highlights to look forward to this season.

“The first two shows will be concurrent, so guests can see them in the same weekend,” said Anderson. “Take the time between shows and enjoy the nature that the park has to offer, a picnic outside the theater, and then come back and watch our professionals put on a spectacular show.”

After years of enduring weather and general damages, associate director of the BHP campus Randy Niles said the theater’s campus has received a facelift through a series of improvement to its buildings that started in 2011. Over the course of fall 2021 and spring 2022, the grounds have received numerous updates.

“When the Warren M. Lee Theatre was built, it was intended as a one- season-only structure,” said Niles. “Now we have a weather-proof envelope which is energy efficient.”

The second oldest building on campus, the theater experienced a hefty renovation from siding to insulation to air conditioning backstage. The updates that have been made benefit both the professionals performing and the audience that comes to watch the show.

“If we can continue building the future of the company and how we reinvest in our campus, we’re going to see a very promising future.” -Randy Niles

In the most recent practical update to the grounds, Anderson says a dedicated committee of volunteers and staff worked on prolonging the life of each building.

Niles says they had a total of 19 buildings reroofed with the help of All American Siding, Windows & USA Roofing from the oldest remaining building—the Snack Bar—to the scene shop, costume shop, rehearsal hall, and more. According to Anderson, the road to the BHP was also rebuilt and re- paved. And now, the shows must go on in 2023.

“We want people to come and immerse themselves in new perspectives this season,” said Anderson.

For more information, visit BLACKHILLSPLAYHOUSE.COM.

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