Theater History

The Southwest Iowa Theatre Group was established in the fall of 1957. The first play presented was "Kind Lady". The Southwest Iowa Theatre Group has been in continuous operation ever since. We believe that we are the oldest, non-profit community theater group, in continuous operation, in the state of Iowa. In its early years, three productions were staged per theater season which included a fall production, a winter production, and a spring production. In 1997 a summer production was added to the theater season, and there has been almost constant activity in the theater ever since. A typical theater season now includes a drama, a comedy, and two musical productions.

Early productions were staged at various locations including the local schools, at KMA Radio's Mayfair Auditorium, and a community building, located in a city park, and used for a variety of community events. It was a simple building consisting of a large open room, and two small restrooms. Theater productions in the Rose Garden were staged on the floor, and portable bleachers were set up to accommodate the audience.

In 1966, the City of Shenandoah gave the Southwest Iowa Theatre Group permission to attach an addition to the Rose Garden. This addition included a simple stage, and a small auditorium. The stage features a 12' x 28' proscenium, and a depth of 28 feet. There is about 8' of wing space to either side of the stage. The roof is constructed of wooden trusses 12' above the stage floor. There is no flyspace. This is an intimate theater as the auditorium is small in size, and at the time of building the addition, seated only 150. There is not a bad seat in the house. There is an enclosed light/sound booth at the rear of the auditorium. In November of 2021, the auditorium was updated with new flooring and seating, to include aisle lights. Three larger sizes of seats were installed, therefore reducing the seating capacity to 135. These are the first brand new seats SWITG has ever had. Original seats from 1966 were from Shenandoah's old movie house, The Page Theater. The second set of seats were installed in 2005 with used seats from an old school auditorium. 

Later additions include a workshop; two dressing rooms adjoining stage right; a storage facility for scenery, costumes and props; and most recently a new lobby and restrooms in 2000. In late 2021, new lobby flooring was installed and in early 2022, permanent lobby furniture, blinds, and other updates were added. In addition to the auditorium and lobby updates, the lobby restrooms underwent renovation, streamlining the entire public areas used by SWITG patrons during performances. 

The "Rose Garden" was originally under the management of the Shenandoah city parks department. Many years ago the city transferred management of the Rose Garden to the theatre group. In addition to the four productions in the regular theater season, there are now occasional "added attractions" in the Rose Garden including small cast productions; cabaret shows with variety acts; children's theatre camps; musical recitals/reviews; etc. The theatre group also makes the Rose Garden available to the public on a rental basis for family reunions; wedding/graduation receptions; craft fairs; business meetings; etc.
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