Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati

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From a German bank in the 20th century to a theatre centered on social change, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is steeped in history.

“What’s past is prologue.”

The Tempest

In 1986, Ensemble Theatre emerged from the wings of the Cincinnati arts scene with the purpose of supporting local professional artists and a steadfast belief in the transformative power of the arts to create sustainable and attractive communities.

After two subscription seasons at Memorial Hall and an extensive search through the downtown area, Ensemble Theatre found its present home at 1127 Vine Street in historic Over-the-Rhine with financial support from co-founders John and Ruth Sawyer and Ken and Mary Taft Mahler. Once the theatre secured a contract with Actors’ Equity Association, Ensemble Theatre made its grand entrance as an entirely professional theatre. Today, it remains the second-largest professional theatre in the region.

An photo of ETC's brightly-lit exterior at night
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An empty theatre from the stage's perspective. The stage is lit for a performance.

Romeo & Juliet, 1989

In 1996, as the theatre faced financial pressure that could result in a final blow for the company, D. Lynn Meyers became the theatre’s Producing Artistic Director. Under her enthusiastic direction, Ensemble Theatre sharpened its mission as a theatre dedicated to producing new works to incorporate social justice themes that reflect the reality of our community. Through its revived mission and programming, the theatre emerged as the lasting organization patrons love today.

Growing from only a handful of subscribers during its first few years, Ensemble Theatre now holds a loyal subscriber base of more than 2,700 and serves an annual audience of approximately 40,000 patrons through its main stage productions and education and community engagement programs.

In 2019, Meyers received the Rosa F. and Samuel B. Sachs Fund Prize for outstanding accomplishments in the arts, and Ensemble Theatre received the Ohio Governor’s Award for Arts Education.

Our Buildings

Ensemble Theatre’s heritage buildings at 1117 and 1127 Vine Street were built in 1912 and 1904, respectively. Before being converted into a performance space, the theatre’s main building at 1127 Vine Street was originally built as a German bank, one of many institutions constructed in the early 20th century in response to the influx of German immigrants into Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s first suburb.

Remnants of the building’s original purpose are still standing, such as the bank vault walls dividing the backstage area from the auditorium. During the interim years before becoming a theatre, the building at 1127 Vine Street also housed an Italian Consulate and printing press.

Prior to their conversion in our renovations, the 1117 Vine Street building which now stands as our scene shop and administrative offices, was previously Schlueter’s Clothing Store, Poley’s Big & Tall, and had various other uses until its acquisition by Ensemble Theatre. Our lobby’s 1125 Bar previously stood alone as a street-level bar with tenement homes above.

Remnants of the past lives of these buildings remain throughout the theatre—from embedded chimney flutes to stars studding support joist, to the corinthian-like columns welcoming patrons through our front doors—Over-the-Rhine’s history reverberates within our walls.

After completing a feasibility study in 2004 and following subsequent years of strategic planning, Ensemble Theatre completed its first major renovation and expansion in the fall of 2017. This transformational project added 8,200 square feet to the current facilities (totaling now 43,240 square feet), expanded the lobby, increased accessibility, and added public spaces that allow the scheduling of onsite classes, events, and other programs.

An old store front with three feminine-looking mannequins in early 1900s white dresses and hats with antique furniture in between them.

1117 Vine Street, Schlueter Store Window

Photo credits | Masthead, Façade of 1127 Vine Street building, circa 1927 (image provided courtesy of Fifth Third Bank’s archives); Production History, Ginny Hoffman & Gary Sandy in A Streetcar Named Desire (Sandy Underwood); About, set of The Whipping Man (Ryan Kurtz); Social Accountability, Gavin Lawrence in The Mountaintop (Ryan Kurtz); Leadership & Staff, set of Next to Normal (Ryan Kurtz).