Changes at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park came into sharper focus this morning with the announcement that a $5 million gift will mean the Marx Theatre — which has been the renowned regional theater’s mainstage since its construction more than 50 years ago — will be replaced with a new theatre.
The benefactors are Jack and Moe Rouse, and their gift means the Playhouse’s new mainstage will be named “Moe and Jack’s Place – The Rouse Theatre.” The Rouses have been major supporters of the Playhouse for many years. Jack has served on the Playhouse board for 18 seasons and was president twice, most recently from 2016 to 2018. More than a decade ago he led an exploration that looked at other locations for a new Playhouse facility. At the time, it became evident that the community’s consensus was to keep the Tony Award-winning theater in Eden Park.
Jack is the guy who brought the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music's legendary musical theater program into existence a half-century ago; Moe taught there for many years. Both of them have been active volunteer leaders across the community. Moe founded Mannequin, a vintage clothing boutique in Over-the-Rhine that benefits eight local charities: Freestore Foodbank, Lighthouse Youth Services, La Soupe, Wesley Chapel, First Step Home, Caracole, Tender Mercies and UCAN Nonprofit Spay & Neuter Clinic. She has served on the boards of the Red Cross, Cincinnati Ballet, WGUC, Film Commmission and the Contemporary Arts Center. Jack currently serves on the boards of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and ArtsWave.
“Jack and I met doing theatre together and have a long-abiding love of the Playhouse,” says Moe in a release. “Making this gift is our way of sharing the joy of live theater with the community. We want the new mainstage theatre to be a friendly, accessible place that brings all types of people together.”
The Playhouse expects to break ground in 2020 for the complex project which will build a new mainstage on the theater’s existing home site in Eden Park. The Playhouse’s smaller stage — recently renamed the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre in honor of another generous gift — will be renovated this summer. It is the original structure — a onetime park shelterhouse — that first housed Playhouse productions in the 1960s. The new theater will include seats with more legroom and improved accessibility.
The new mainstage complex, which will include the Rouse Theatre, is expected to open in late 2022 (a year later than the previously projected date of late 2021). It will include new dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, green rooms, a costume shop and backstage areas. The new theater will incorporate state-of-the-art technology and enhance the audience experience with better comfort, sightlines, acoustics and entry and exit spaces.
It’s an exciting time for the Playhouse as fundraising continues for the project through a capital campaign chaired by Woody Taft and Rob Reifsnyder.
“Moe and Jack’s leadership and generosity laid the groundwork for the fantastic progress we continue to make on the campaign,” says Reifsnyder in a release. Specific details of the total project’s cost are not yet available.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article noted that the Marx Theatre will undergo renovations and be renamed. This is inaccurate. Rather, the Marx Theatre will be replaced by a brand new theater: Moe and Jack's Place — The Rouse Theatre.