The not-for-profit Phoenix Theatre opened in the fall of 1983 under the leadership of founding artistic director Bryan Fonseca. Actors and crew are local residents and include both vocational and avocational artists.

Exterior view of a modern commercial building. A large sign affixed above the entrance shows that it is the home of the Phoenix Theatre.
Phoenix Theatre at 705 North Illinois Street, 2021 Credit: Jenna Auber

The Phoenix’s first five seasons were performed in a converted 93-seat theatre in the Ambassador building in downtown Indianapolis. In 1988, Indianapolis developer J. Scott Keller donated a historic church to the theatre, located in the Chatham Arch neighborhood northeast of downtown Indianapolis. Restoration and renovation of the 1907 building were completed in August 1992. A main stage seating 150 was constructed in the gabled nave while the smaller Underground theatre downstairs seated 75. Both stages were used for Phoenix productions. In May 2018, the Phoenix theatre moved to a newly constructed, 20,000-square-foot building at 705 N. Illinois St. Fonseca departed at this time over differences with the Phoenix board.

The Phoenix presents issue-oriented, contemporary American drama, usually in local, regional, or national premieres. In 1984, the Phoenix sponsored the Indiana New Plays Festival for Indiana playwrights. The following year the contest went national in scope, was renamed the Festival of Emerging Theatre, and became an annual event.

More than a theatre, the Phoenix also offers beginning and advanced playwriting classes, as well as acting and improvisation classes for adults and children. It also supports a cultural center with trail talks, gallery space, and several performing arts collectives.

Revised July 2021

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