Theater at Rensselaer has a long history — the best record we have is dated November 25, 1929 and states: “The first regular meeting of the R.P.I. Dramatic Club was held Tuesday, Nov. 25, 1929 in the Proudfit Building.” And thus a club [the RPI Players] was born.
The current Playhouse, a former U.S.O. building, was moved from Windsor Locksa, Connecticut to Rensselaer in 1946. The building was acquired by the Institute to accommodate a library extension, study space and social activities. The structure was placed along 15th St., just south of the Quadrangle Dorms and Russell Sage Jr. Dining Hall, and thus dubbed the 15th Street Lounge or Lounge 15. The building was first inhabited by the R.P.I. Players during the 1948 - 1949 and 1949 - 1950 seasons while repairs were performed on the Old Gym. The 15th Street Lounge became the permanent home of the R.P.I. Players in the middle of the 1965 - 1966 season with the production of A Slow Dance On The Killing Ground. The building was shared by R.P.I. Players and other campus organizations including WRPI, the Outing Club, the Fencing Club, the International Club, the Band, Orchestra and Glee Clubs for concerts and recitals as well as a location for worship on Sundays.
The R.P.I. Players found it necessary to modify the interior spaces of the building to suit their needs. Modifications of the facility continued until the 1982 - 1983 season when a building renovation commenced. Displaced from their home, the R.P.I. Players managed to still produce a season of shows by performing in other campus locations including the McNeil Room of the RPI Student Union and the West Hall auditorium. In November of 1983, the newly renovated R.P.I. Playhouse opened with a production of West Side Story. Some additional spaces, like the costume shop and set shop, were added to the building during the renovation, expanding the footprint of the building.
Today, the RPI Playhouse is administrated in part by the RPI Players, but host events for other campus groups, including a capella clubs, RPIgnite, and Genericon.
Plaque in Entryway
Playhouse renovations and additions were made possible through the encouragement and generous support of Rensselaer’s alumni, faculty, friends, and – especially – its students. Generations of students and members of the community will benefit from their generosity. RPI gratefully acknowledges the hundreds who supported the renovation of the former 15th Street Lounge, with special appreciation to those who provided major support:
THE HOWARD AND BUSH FOUNDATION, INC.
SENATOR WILLIAM H. HERNSTADT ‘57
PRESIDENT AND MRS. GEORGE M. LOW ‘48
THE RENSSELAER UNION
STUDENTS FROM THE CLASSES OF 1974-1980
Dedicated November 1983”