What started as one man’s dream has become a staple Black Hills institution. Dr. Warren M. Lee from the University of South Dakota opened the Black Hills Playhouse in 1946 to put on high-caliber productions for locals and visitors alike. It was also a way to employ theatre professionals and train students from the university. They have since expanded to include traveling youth theatre workshops, sleep-away camps, and promote inclusion of children and adults with disabilities through the arts. The theater has been entertaining audiences and inspiring students for over 70 years now, and shows no sign of stopping.
The playhouse itself is within Custer State Park, which provides its own level of theatricality at times. Wildlife roam the 70,000+ acre park, with no fences provided to prevent them from checking out the playhouse. Guests can expect smaller forest animals such as mice and chipmunks, but the occasional buffalo has been known to wander nearby. Bats and birds also make their way inside once in a while, but the show will go on even with winged guests in the audience!
Planning to catch a performance? The building seats 345, so if you plan ahead, it’s fairly easy to get a ticket. Make sure you buy a park pass before you go! Passes are required, and park rangers are known to check the parking lot, so it’s best to be prepared. You can purchase a weekly or annual pass at any of the entrances to Custer State Park, at the playhouse, or online. While you’re there, check out all that the park offers. It’s the largest state park in South Dakota and home to the second largest buffalo herd in the country.
Shows vary by season with a variety of famous plays and lesser-known gems. Check their website for upcoming titles when planning your trip.