Located in the front of Henry Ford Museum is Anderson Theater. The theater plays a variety of roles today, from a space for presentations to wedding ceremonies. Regular visitors might be familiar with the theater, but here’s a bit of Anderson Theater production history.
A 1967 "Cinderella" ticket (EI.224.5).
Originally named the Henry Ford Museum Theater, it was built in 1929. Since the opening of the museum drama has been performed on Anderson’s stage, first done by the Edison Institute students. A professional theater program began in 1964 under the direction of Ted Payne.
In September of 1965, Joseph French took over the theater department and became the new producer, a position he held until the program ended in 1995. The first actual production was during the holidays in 1965 – “Rip Van Winkle.” An annual Easter production began in 1972 and ran through 1982. Finishing out the 1970s, the American comedy series began in 1976. The first full subscription season of evening shows (and select matinees) began in 1978 and ran through December 1995. Holiday plays ended at the end of December, 2004.
The theater was renovated in 1994 and re-named the Sally and Wendell Anderson Theater because of their generous donation to the theater. (Sally and Wendell were long supporters of The Henry Ford. Wendell served on our board of trustees from 1982-1993.) This renovation provided the theater with refurbish restrooms, developed the dressing rooms, along with new carpet, and upholstery for the seats.
The first play that was held after Anderson Theater was re-opened was “The Witching Hour”
Today Anderson is a popular spot for wedding ceremonies at The Henry Ford thanks to the stage and theater-style seating. A fun trend we’ve seen from couples from time to time is to turn Anderson Theater wedding invitations into tickets or playbills to celebrate the theater’s history. After all, as the history of Anderson Theater will tell you, the play's the thing!
Aileen Lessnau is a Social Event Specialist at The Henry Ford