Regarded as one of the Midwest’s top professional summer stock theaters, the Avondale Playhouse (or “Avondale-in the-Meadows”) contracted nationally recognized stage and screen personalities to headline casts composed largely of local talent. A candy-striped tent erected at the Meadows Shopping Center on East 38th Street housed the 1,200-seat theater for most of its operating years, 1954-1966.
Avondale regularly drew capacity audiences to popular light comedy productions in addition to award-winning modern classics. One of the nation’s few theaters-in-the-round, Avondale’s stage afforded such stars as Myrna Loy, Cesar Romero, and Dorothy Lamour in an unusual live-performance experience, while its multiple viewing perspectives proved a challenge to directors and set designers.
, who along with W. Taylor Wilson helped found Avondale, promoted the tent theater and its friendly rival, , as the city’s two best alternatives to summer boredom. In 1964, ticket prices ranged from $2.90 to $3.20. The Crown Room, located in the , advertised a dinner, cocktail, and Avondale show package for $6.95.
Encouraged by the theater’s success, Avondale’s board of directors sought expansion to other midwest locations, but the failure of a Louisville venture in 1965 forced the company to sell its assets. A proposed Avondale “Playhouse-on-the-Lake,” scheduled to open June 20, 1967, at 116th and Keystone, never reached the construction stage.