Road construction may lead to delays, so please plan your visit accordingly.

UPCOMING SHOWS

 

EXPERIENCE THE REVITALIZED HILLSIDE THEATER

Productions at Hillside Theater offer immersive experiences that highlight the captivating talents of Taliesin’s culturally rich community, complemented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovative architecture. Fostering a diverse collective of creative minds, our goal is to curate compelling performances that educate, enrich, and inspire. To explore the opportunity of performing in our unforgettable setting, connect with us!

 

THE SPACE

Hillside Theater welcomes public tours from 9 am to 3 pm, May 1st through October 31st, with programming available from 3 pm to 10 pm.

With a seating capacity of 100, the historic theater offers an intimate space for patrons to immerse themselves in the profound impact of human expression.

The site, boasting convenient onsite parking and ADA accessibility and seating, ensures inclusivity for all guests. Catering services provided by Riverview Terrace Cafe offers the option of an accompanying culinary experience.

With top-tier equipment including a film screen, projector, and lighting system, the theater is fully equipped to host a diverse range of events.

As part of ongoing efforts to broaden the theater’s cultural offerings, the space now boasts live-streaming capabilities. This technological leap allows us to engage audiences beyond our immediate locale.

Recent restorations at the Hillside Theater have incorporated new green rooms for artists and an HVAC system to ensure a comfortable viewing experience for all patrons.

A HISTORIC LANDMARK

Within the Taliesin Fellowship, artistic expression was not just encouraged but celebrated. At Taliesin, being an architect meant more than mastering drafting skills; it meant embracing a spectrum of talents, from tending to crops to mastering musical instruments. The theater became a hub for creative energy, hosting vibrant productions and performances that reflected the Taliesin Fellowship’s diverse passions. Evenings were often dedicated to immersive art experiences, with Frank Lloyd Wright inviting the community to film screenings. By hosting performances, we strive to maintain the vibrancy of the theater as a place where creativity thrives, which is crucial for preserving its cultural heritage.

Below: Mr. and Mrs. Wright enjoy a Sunday evening musical at Hillside Theater, watching pianist Gunnar Johannesen from the University of Wisconsin perform.
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Hillside Home School gymnasium in 1902

Performances at Taliesin have always contributed significantly to its life. They interrupt the routine of mundane living with focused preparation, presentation, and participation. Hillside Theater did not displace the music, talks, and dramatic readings that took place in the magical living room at the Taliesin house, but it was the place where Wright invited the world beyond Taliesin to share in its creative life.”—Sidney K. Robinson, Author, Architect, and former Emeritus Educator at Taliesin School of Architecture

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Original sign on display at the theater

Since the start of the Fellowship in 1932, the Hillside Theater evolved from a multipurpose room with a small stage and suspended running track to a dedicated playhouse for entertainment. On Sundays, Wright welcomed the public to enjoy movies, with admission and coffee by the fire priced at just 50 cents. From its earliest days to the 1955 structure that stands today, the theater has served as a gathering place for communities and a hub for shared appreciation of the arts.

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Renovations between 1932 and 1934, converted the gym into a theater named the Playhouse

Following a fire in 1952, the Playhouse underwent several modifications: The roof and floor were lowered to accommodate additional seating, while square windows were added to the north and south walls. Completed by apprentices in 1954, the theater assumed its present form.

During the Playhouse’s evolution, Wright was concurently designing the Guggenheim Museum. Completed in 1954, the Hillside Theater ceiling featured a unique integration of plaster and metal lath, reflecting Wright’s innovative approach to materials, similar to his endeavors with steel and concrete in the construction of the Guggenheim.

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HILLSIDE THEATER CURTAIN

Handcrafted by apprentices, the Hillside Theater curtain was presented to Wright as a birthday gift in 1957. The curtain features multicolored pieces of felt and yarn meticulously sewn onto large strips of cotton muslin. Over the years, Wright occasionally modified the curtain by cutting some yarn lines, altering their orientation from horizontal to vertical.

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Wright

Designed in 1952, Hillside Theater represents Wright’s abstract interpretation of the Taliesin estate. If you look closely at the Hillside Theater curtain abstraction, you can see how it is divided in half by a diagonal line, with green from the upper right side down to the lower left side of the curtain, depicting the green hills of the valley (1). In the upper right-hand corner, there are outlines of his own house, Taliesin (2), with the long Birdwalk and smoke rising from the fireplace. The large band of black felt on the left half of the curtain represents the Wisconsin River (3), and the red line of felt above the river is the large Highway 23 bridge (4) crossing over the river. In the lower right-hand corner, you’ll find Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature red square (5).

Originally Published in “Create a Landscape Abstraction

Hillside Theater Curtain Drawing Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). All Rights Reserved.

THE PATH TO PRESERVATION

After four years of meticulous renovation, Hillside Theater is now poised to embark on a new chapter of artistic exploration and expression. Take a look at the chapters along the way and discover the lessons learned throughout the restoration process: