Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Square Circling 

Tours of the Playhouse Square theaters

The Palace from the cheap seats.
  • The Palace from the cheap seats.
Why do the highbrows with the hip threads have some of the lousiest seats in the theater? Why is the lobby of the State Theatre as long as a football field? And who do those two mugs -- the ones peering down from the ceiling of the Allen Theatre's outer lobby -- belong to?

Playhouse Square tours provide answers to these and a supporting cast of other bits of trivia. On the first weekend of most months -- before theatergoers settle in, curtains go up, and lights go on for matinees -- about two dozen "redcoats" (Playhouse Square volunteers) lead free meanderings throughout the Allen, Ohio, State, and Palace theaters, and if your tour guide is a show-stealer like Ron Hendzel, you'll be rolling in the aisles.

"Those are lousy seats," says Hendzel, pointing to the hoity-toity private boxes on each side of the Allen. "Sure, those people have their chinchilla coats and fancy jewelry, but beyond that, they're not too particular." Poor sight lines may skew their views of the stage, but at least they're in the public eye.

And while the theaters themselves are impressive, mouths are more likely to drop open in the lobbies. The recently renovated Allen's bilevel rotunda features an ornate, colorful ceiling, said to replicate that of the 500-year-old Villa Madama in Rome. In the Grand Hall lobby of the Palace, sparkling Czechoslovakian lead crystal chandeliers are reputed to be mirror images of those adorning the Palace of Versailles.

Nearly 80 years of storied history are packed into a tour billed as 90 minutes long -- longer, if Hendzel is your guide. A few of the dozen tourists bowed out before the end of the journey, but others -- including one of the most attentive three-year-olds to ever set foot inside a theater -- enjoyed the entire two and a half hours.

By the way: The lobby of the State Theatre is so long because it was built behind the Palace, due to limited frontage on Euclid Avenue; the dignified faces on the ceiling of the Allen lobby belong to Playhouse Square Foundation President Art J. Falco and Tom Einhouse, director of facilities and construction ("It was a whim of the artist," Hendzel explains. "They didn't have anything to put up there"); and during wordy commentaries, comfy theater seats spell relief for lower backaches.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Highlights

More by Jeff Woodard

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation