Tour the Theatre
Explore the historic theatre and take a behind-the-scenes look at how productions come to life with a tour of the Renaissance Theatre. Tours of the theatre are curated to your interests so be sure to ask about Ghost Tours, Behind the Scenes Peaks, and Historic Tours.
The Ohio Theatre
In 1928, the Ohio Theatre was built as a grand movie house in Mansfield, Ohio. For 20 years it successfully hosted popular films, live performers, and premieres, becoming a cultural hub for the city. However, with the rise of television, the theatre's popularity declined, and it faced a period of neglect.
Finally, it reached an all-time low in 1979 when it was turned into an X-rated movie house, causing uproarious responses from the local community. Protesters and community activists forced the current owners to cease operations.
In 1980, a high profile event took place that turned all eyes to the Ohio Theatre. The Miss Ohio Scholarship Pageant rented the theatre, spruced up the building, and broadcast the competition across the State of Ohio. Everyone who watched saw that the Ohio was still a beautiful theatre. Momentum began as community members began to make plans to save the theatre.
On August 18, 1980, through the generosity and coordination of local philanthropists Fran and Warren Rupp, the Ohio Theatre was purchased from its out-of-town owners and presented to the non-profit Renaissance Theatre, Inc.
The restoration began with a massive clean-up and chandelier relighting. The theatre was renamed the Renaissance Theatre to reflect the revived interest in theatre arts.
A capital improvements campaign raised $2.25 million in 1984, enabling various enhancements such as seat refurbishment, new lighting and sound equipment acquisition, and restoration of the Kearns Wurlitzer theatre organ. The restoration aimed to retain the original palace theatre architectural style and physical items. The Renaissance Theatre, located halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, earned its place on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
In December, 1991, the Board of Directors of the Renaissance Theatre received a memorable and generous Christmas gift: the deed to the property of the theatre from The Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.
Ongoing renovations since the major restoration in 1985 have included furniture recovery, wall painting, Assistive Listening Devices installation, and plumbing repairs. In 2003, a Hydraulic Tandem Stage Lift was installed, improving safety and efficiency.
On January 1, 1997, the Renaissance Theatre merged with the Mansfield Symphony to create the Renaissance Performing Arts Association as it is known today.
In 2010, a capital campaign expansion of $5.4 million enabled the addition of ADA accessible amenities such as an elevator, concession, bar, restroom, and staff facilities. A new digital marquee, sponsored by the Hire Family Foundation, replaced the failing Madison Marquee, providing a preview of upcoming events.
Today the Renaissance Performing Arts Association continues to provide programming in education, theatre, and music for the Richland County Community and beyond. Thanks to the work of a dedicated staff and board of directors, the Renaissance vision and influence will continue for years to come.
The Imagination District
In 2015, the Renaissance and Little Buckeye began discussing a shared concern: the lack of space to meet the educational and cultural needs of Mansfield and the surrounding communities.
The opportunity to resolve this issue presented itself in 2016 when the Renaissance purchased the future home of Theatre 166 and the former Rainbow Mortgage building. Subsequently, the Museum purchased the adjacent building at 174 Park Avenue West in December of 2018. The acquisition and development of these properties signified the beginning of the Imagination District: a joint venture that will provide multiple arts and education experiences and drive economic growth in Mansfield.
With just one 1,400 seat theater space, the Renaissance identified a need for a space to foster creative collaboration in a smaller, more intimate setting. The solution to his problem was the development of a Black Box style theatre that could be conveniently located in the building next door.
With the generous support of sponsors, a condemned building underwent a two-year renovation process, transforming it into a versatile performance venue.
In October 2018, Theatre 166 was unveiled. Situated at 166 Park Avenue West in Mansfield, it was conceived as a collaborative space for artists to expand their creative vision. It includes a black box theatre, scene shop, state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space, and classrooms.
Theatre 166 aims to do more than foster artistic development—it seeks to engage a diverse audience and offer a variety of theatrical experiences. By presenting original works, reinterpreted classics, and overlooked masterpieces, it invites the community to immerse themselves in the transformative power of the arts.
Development of the Ghostlight Lounge began with an unused space within the Historic Renaissance Theatre. The former historic lobby remained relatively vacant for many years until generous funding from the Ann Hartman Schettler and the Brian Arthur Adair Donor-Advised Funds of the Richland County Foundation became available to bring the vision to reality.
The reimagined lounge space pays homage to the prohibition era when the theatre doors first opened, providing a unique ambiance for visitors to experience. The Ghostlight Lounge features a bar, vintage seating, stage, and historical artifacts. The lounge also displays a curated selection of costumes used in productions at the Renaissance Theatre.