The Hippodrome Theatre
The Hippodrome Theatre is a historic theatre located in the town square of Terre Haute, Indiana. This theatre was designed by John Eberson in 1915 featuring a German renaissance architectural style. The theatre became a popular site for vaudeville performance, featuring short operettas, burlesque, and variety acts including magic, ventriloquism, acrobatics, and comedy. The Hippodrome was one of the most popular Indiana theatres in the early 1900s, featuring such notable performers as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, and Will Rogers. After vaudeville faded in the 1930s and 1940s, the theatre became a beloved community theatre in Terre Haute, adapting with theatre in America to stage productions founded in the style of realism.
Backstory and Context
Vaudeville rose to popularity from America’s love for other types of entertainment, such as circus acts and minstrel shows. Vaudeville acts combined features of classic theatrical performances with stylized elements from these circus acts and minstrel shows to create a uniquely American style of theatre. Vaudeville became a sort of “crossroads” for many different forms of entertainment to unite, notably featuring elements of melodrama and spectacle to engage audiences in a light-hearted production. The Hippodrome was built to bring this form of popular entertainment to the citizens of Indiana. In one night alone in 1910, the Hippodrome was reported to have spent over $2,000 in acts along, featuring “the death defying Chefalo, who loops the loop and leaps the gap all in one act, Leon Morris, dog, pony and monkey show, with the diving monkey, The Warricks in the trick club house act, Signor Coshell in a wire act, The Arnessen family, head and hand balancing, and The Three Raschette Brothers in a barrel act” among others (Mammoth 3). This site is significant to understanding the growth of theatrical performance in Indiana, exposing the state’s participation in the vaudeville movement after the rise of minstrelsy in theatre and before theatrical realism came to fruition.
Mike McCormick, “Hippodrome Theater,” Terre Haute Tribune Star, April 26, 2001, http://visions.indstate.edu:8888/cdm/singleitem/collection/vchs/id/542/rec/2.
“Mammoth Hippodrome” The Richmond Palladium, September 25, 1910, https://newspapers.library.in.gov/?a=d&d=RPD19100925&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-hippodrome+theater------