Walnut Street Theatre/WST for Kids - Philadelphia and America's Oldest Theater
Known for both its wide range of productions and its rich historical significance, the Walnut Street Theatre and its WST for Kids program are Philadelphia institutions. With more than 55,000 season ticket holders, Walnut is an incredibly popular part of Philly's cultural identity, and the child-focused performances that make up the WST for Kids season expose the city's youth to everything that theater has to offer.
Walnut Street Theatre History
Built in 1809, the Walnut Street Theatre is the oldest theater in America. Originally home to an equestrian circus, the theater began hosting plays in 1812. Soon after it was built, an 80-foot dome was constructed on top of the building, making it the tallest structure in Philadelphia at the time. The theater was bought in 1863 by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, and famous stars who have performed at the theater over the years include Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Marlon Brando and the Marx Brothers.
Walnut Street Theatre Events
Walnut puts on a variety of shows every season, including holiday productions, plays and world-famous musicals like "The Wizard of Oz." Shows typically run for several weeks to several months at a time. WST for Kids operates in the same way, performing extended-run shows that are targeted for kids in the K-6 range and scheduled during the daytime. WST for Kids shows are often adaptations of popular children's books, movies or fairy tales, ensuring that they appeal to kids of all ages -- and their adult companions. In addition to the shows that are performed on the Mainstage, Walnut has two smaller theatres and operates a theatre school for children.
Walnut Street Theatre Seating Layout
Shows that are part of the WST for Kids program are performed on the theater's Mainstage. There's not a bad seat in the house in either the orchestra or mezzanine. No seat in the orchestra section is more than 45 feet from the stage, and no seat in the mezzanine section is more than 80 feet from the stage. With air conditioning, a cafe serving refreshments and a few bars, the theater is a comfortable place to see a show. The Mainstage is wheelchair accessible, but some areas of the theater have steps, so anyone needing a seat that is wheelchair accessible should contact the theater directly.
The City of Brotherly Love is one of America's most beautiful and historical cities, and the area around the Walnut is especially noteworthy. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, both located about three blocks from the theatre, are some of the city's most popular attractions, as is the Merriam Theatre, where the Pennsylvania Ballet performs.
In 1855, Walnut became the first theatre to install air conditioning, and the traditional post-show curtain call was originated at the theatre.
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