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User Note: Follow the sidewalk in front of Spindler Hall towards Oakland Drive until you reach the Little Theatre, which is on the left. Feel free to walk up the stairs and explore around the building.

As a replacement for the condemned Eames Mill, the Little Theatre was constructed for the Dramatic Arts Department and the Western State Normal Players. The new state-of-the-art facility included expanded facilities for the thespians, including a stage, dressing rooms, and classrooms. Although the building changed names multiple times, it was primarily used as a theatre, as well as for temporary classroom space during World War II. In the late 1990s, the building was renamed the Campus Cinema and served as a movie theatre for students and faculty. Today, the theatre is used by Western’s E-sports club for practice and gaming competitions.

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As Western’s campus continued to expand, more departments were being moved into newer facilities, and the theatre program was no exception. Prior to the 1940s, the dramatic arts department and thespians, called the Western Normal Players, utilized the Eames Mill as their performance and practice space, which was condemned in 1923.

In 1942, the Theatre was built by Malcomson, Calder, and Hammond Incorporated and officially became the new home for the Western Players. The new facility provided an auditorium with over 350 seats, a stage, dressing rooms, offices, and classrooms to be used by the Dramatic Arts Department. Aside from theatrical performances, the theatre also served as a temporary classroom space during the post-war period from 1946 to 1950 when student enrollment increased exponentially after World War II.

The building continued to serve under the name “The Theatre” until the 1970s when it was renamed the Oakland Recital Hall. This name lasted approximately 20 years until the theatre’s remodel in 1996 and was rededicated as the Campus Cinema in September of the following year. With the construction of both Miller Auditorium and Shaw Theatre on WMU’s Main Campus, the Campus Cinema was no longer needed to host the university’s theatre departments.

Now regarded as the Little Theatre, the space was renovated once again to house the E-sports club and featured thirty-six gaming machines with high-resolution monitors, special headsets, keyboards, mice, and ergonomic gaming chairs. Although the theatre’s name and purpose have undergone multiple changes throughout its history, remnants of the past can still be seen through the ornamental detailing that is located above the main entrance.

Knauss, James O. The First Fifty Years: A History of Western Michigan College of Education, 1903-1953. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan College of Education, 1953. 

Weir, Lynne B., York, MaryGrace, “Western State Normal School Historic District,” National Register of Historic Place Registration Form (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1989) 

University Libraries. Rep. Campus Building Inventory - Yearly Summary, n.d. 

“The Old Playhouse Was the Thing for Laura Shaw.” Encore Magazine of the Arts, April 1977. 

Massie, Larry B. Brown and Golden Memories: Western Michigan University's First Century. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, 2003. 

Carlson, Sharon; Glatz, Jason, WMU Facilities Management. “WMU Campus History” [storymap], (Accessed February 17, 2022)