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Best Theaters In Minnesota

The beauty of theater is its presence, its physicality and its immediacy as a fine art experience. The visual artistry of stagecraft and the collaborative display of human interaction create an immediate emotional experience, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Five Minnesota theaters listed below excel in producing live performances by a resident company working from a specified repertoire. In addition to those five are many other year-round professional theater organizations.

Related: Best Theatre Gems In The Twin Cities

Guthrie Theater
(credit: CRAIG LASSIG/AFP/Getty Images)

Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 377-2224

Minnesota owes a lot to the Guthrie for its national notoriety in theater arts. Our pioneering playhouse founded the League of Resident Theatres and remains Minnesota's only affiliate among its 74 members. Its Artistic Director for the last decade, Joe Dowling, is retiring after this season. Having directed plays in London, New York and all the major theatres in Ireland, Dowling brought a pedigree to the Guthrie that few could match since Sir Tyrone himself. Perhaps Dowling's foundational strength gave him license to nudge this institution from its strict classical approach and gravitate to more experimentation. The Guthrie Theater features three individual stages, a full-service restaurant, several bars and beautiful views of the Mississippi River.

Related: Best Directors In The Local Theater Scene In Minnesota

Illusion Theater
528 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 339-4944

Having commissioned and developed over 350 plays during four decades of operation is testament to this the sustainability of the arts on Hennepin Avenue. Forty other theaters have staged Illusion's plays and two were made into movies. One even received a Pulitzer nomination. More importantly, Illusion Theater's leadership established creative hooks for educators, youth, writers and emerging artists. Both young and the old throughout our nation have been exposed to educational materials, broadcasts, workshops, tours and peer education sites in an effort to address difficult issues. Artists new and long-standing are provided a venue to experiment on stage with live audiences with Illusion's Fresh Ink Series. Budding thespians get to shine in The Lights Up! Series. Writers get a chance to hear their work read by skilled performers in the Reading Series.

Park Square Theatre
(credit: Park Square Theatre)

Park Square Theatre
Historic Hamm Building
20 W. 7th Place
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 291-7005

More than any other, Park Square serves the education community having offered 156 matinees to students in grades seven through twelve this season alone. Knowing theater enthusiasts are enjoying seventeen premium performances this season, with many simultaneous showings in either the ample 348-seat proscenium auditorium in the Hamm Building or the intimate 200-seat Andy Boss Thrust Stage. Of note, The Illusion Theater is showcasing a play that Park Square commissioned and developed in 2011. It was a workshop production of "Naked Darrow," a timely treatise on an historic figure who involved himself in issues that remain socially relevant today.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
501 W. 78th St.
Chanhassen, MN 55317
(952) 934-1525

Not only can this large-scale operation claim title as largest dinner theater complex in America, but it is also the largest restaurant in Minnesota. Four stages allow for different modes of entertainment, especially dinner theater, comedy and music acts. Among the many nationally recognized names who started at CDT is local comedian, Loni Anderson. Ever-present on television, film and voice, Ron Perlman had early beginnings at CDT. Local actress, Linda Kelsey, graduated from CDT to a long association with Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant. CDT Artistic Director Michael Brindisi is said to have discovered Amy Adams, enticing her to come to Minnesota in 1995. Three years later she auditioned for locally filmed Drop Dead Gorgeous, launching a prominent career in singing and acting.

Old Log Theater
5185 Meadville St.
Greenwood, MN 55331
(952) 474-5951

Acknowledged because it is the region's first and longest continuously running professional theatre, Old Log opened in a shed with a dirt floor in 1940 as a summer stock company. Don Stolz navigated success of the institution and influenced the development of area radio and television through the years. Prominent personalities had early nurturing at the Old Log, such as Nick Nolte, who played there for three years. Long time WCCO newscaster Dave Moore developed his skills in this theater. Loni Anderson honed his skills at Old Log. Other notables who got their start to Old Log are film, stage and Emmy Award winner Lois Nettleton; and the ever-popular film star, Steve Zahn. We look forward to continued thespian development under new owners, Marissa and Greg Frankenfield, and Artistic Director Kent Knutson.

Related: Best Outdoor Theaters In And Around Minnesota

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at

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