Monday, October 18, 2010

Hanna Theatre

Built in 1921, the Hanna Theatre was a 1,421-seat proscenium-style Broadway touring house. The Hanna stands out from the other four major theaters (Ohio, State, Palace and Allen) that make up what is now known as PlayhouseSquare in a few distinct ways. Most obviously, the Hanna is located on East 14th Street and not Euclid as the others are. Additionally, the Hanna has a short lobby, like a Broadway house. The grand, palatial houses of Euclid Avenue had large, opulent lobbies. But from the street you could have a sold-out house and no one would know. Owner Carl Hanna wanted the audience to spill out onto the street, to generate public excitement for whatever was happening inside.

These days, certain audience members do spill out onto the street, to smoke.

In 1936, you could have seen taken in performances of:
Tobacco Road ('White Trash' On View Again in Hanna Play - Cleveland Press)

Katharine Cornell in Saint Joan

Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! produced by the Group Theatre ("The most important play the Hanna has had this year." - W.Ward Marsh, PD)

Burgess Meredith in both the world premiere of Maxwell Anderson's High Tor (opened Dec. 30) and earlier that year in Anderson's Winterset opposite Peggy Ashcroft.

George M. Cohan in Dear Old Darling

José Ferrer in Boy Meets Girl
And for the record, in late 1934, Orson Welles played the Hanna in a touring production of Romeo & Juliet, starring Katherine Cornell as Juliet and Basil Rathbone as Romeo. During the course of the tour Welles played Mercutio. Once it transferred to Broadway in December 1934, Welles assumed the role of Tybalt.

The Hanna is now home to Great Lakes Theater Festival.

Sources: Wikipedia
From Broadway to Cleveland: A History of the Hanna (John Vacha)

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