ARENA HISTORY: A THEATRE IS BORN
IN JANUARY, 1974
Arena Dinner Theatre came into existence as a result of budget cuts in the Fort Wayne Parks Department. Formerly known as Fort Wayne Theatre Workshop, we were the only theatre in the city at that time performing in the round. But alas, we became the victim of an austerity program of a former administration, our funding was eliminated, and the future of the Theatre Workshop looked bleak. Not willing to give up on a unique idea that had been in operation for many years, the Board of the Theatre (under the direction of Robert Behr) sought a new location and funding to continue the Theatre as a separate organization.
Board members David Barngrover, Larry Wardlaw, Kathy Belchner, Mike Thompson, Wayne Schaltenbrand, and Michael Greene (et al) approached Don Petrocelli (then director of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce) about the idea of opening a dinner theatre in the Anthony Wayne Ballroom in the Fort Wayne Chamber Building. He was excited about the idea and a relationship was forged that would last for ten years. After a change in direction and policy at the C of C, we were once again in a position of seeking a new home. For the next ten years we became known as a theatre on the move, having performed in no less than eight locations, including The Roadway Inn, Sunset Catering, Waynedale Conservation Club, Downtown Holiday Inn, Scottish Rite Shrine, The Crosier House, Allen County Fairgrounds and the Fort Wayne Senior-Community Center before finally finding a permanent home on Rockhill in the historic West Central Neighborhood.
Thanks to grants from many supportive arts foundations, philanthropic organizations and private citizens, we were able to purchase and renovate the old and deteriorated facility of the Fort Wayne Art School Little Theatre. The transformation of the building into an intimate yet elegant dinner theatre space with dining capacity for approximately 100. We have been here since 1995 and don’t plan on moving again! We perform seven shows a year and serve dinners from our own kitchen on the premises. We provide acting, directing, management and production opportunities for actors, technicians and a variety of regional theatre people (both professional and amateur).
The selection of shows offers something for everyone and we know you will find it a pleasant, enjoyable and entertaining experience!