Founded in 1991 by acclaimed actor and Chelsea native Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose Theatre Company is a creative home for theatre artists to define our collective Midwestern voice. It is a place for emerging talent and seasoned professionals to learn more about and to practice their craft; a place for patrons of the arts to laugh, cry, and perhaps even learn something new.
In the early 1900′s, the building that houses our “Garage Theatre” was a used car and bus garage owned by Jeff Daniels’ grandfather. In 1989, the building was purchased and renovated by Mr. Daniels and later donated to the Purple Rose.
From 1990 to 1999, we worked and performed in the garage. In 1999, a $2.2 million capital campaign was launched to expand the theatre. The building was closed for 18 months during construction for new administrative offices, stage, and lobby space. The doors opened again in January, 2001, and in March, 2004 the mortgage was paid in full.
The new building fits beautifully into the historic district of Chelsea’s downtown. The interior features authentic 1930′s theatre decor – from the marbled glass chandelier in the lobby to the art deco doors and ticket booth. Perhaps the most unique quality of the theatre is that while the house itself is larger, the theatre retains its intimate feel with only 168 seats. Every seat is under twenty feet from the stage, so each patron’s experience is an up-close encounter with live theatre.
Starting out with a garage and only the most essential staff, the Purple Rose began producing new American theatre immediately and was named “Theatre of the Year” in 1994 by The Detroit News. We continue to earn awards from both local institutions and national entities, including six nominations for the highly selective and prestigious American Theatre Critics Award for “Best New Play,” which was awarded to us for Book of Days by Lanford Wilson.
As the theatre company grows and flourishes, educational programs are a natural offshoot of our success. Our unique apprenticeship program offers practical professional theatre experience to college graduates. We also offer a wide variety of performance classes, as well as readings and lectures through our partnership with Chelsea District Library. Student matinees and tours for groups of all ages expand our educational impact.
Our greenhouse program for script development based on the needs of the play and the playwright has also grown with the company. We commission new work from established and early career playwrights, and in workshops that last from two days to two weeks, our ‘greenhouse’ helps the script grow, culminating in a concert-style reading and talk-back before an invited audience.
Today, audiences travel as far as 90 miles or more to enjoy quality, professional productions at affordable ticket prices in historic downtown Chelsea. We continue to actively promote the development of new American theatre and its practitioners, provide valuable educational opportunities not available elsewhere, and earn the respect of the national theatre community as well as our neighbors right here in southeast Michigan.