About Park Square Theatre


Our Mission

Mission: Park Square Theatre excites generations of artists and audiences through vibrant theatre that elevates our community’s multiplicity of voices.

Vision: To be a premiere gathering place for culture, thought, and dialogue.

To be a national leader in creating theatrical experiences for students in order to inspire confidence and compassion in the next generations.



Park Square opened in 1975 in an 80-seat walk-up in the Park Square Court building. With our move to the Historic Hamm Building in 1994, we began our strong relationship with Actors’ Equity Association (the union of professional actors and stage managers) and embraced a leading role as a producer of contemporary plays.

A Simple Beginning

Park Square Theatre was founded by Paul Mathey in 1972 first as Variety Hall in the Park Square Court Building in Saint Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood.


“The theatre grew out of an extension of the Smith Park Gallery as a bare spot with a brick wall and a few lights that hosted poetry readings and eventually plays,” remembers Richard Cook, Park Square’s longest tenured Artistic Director. As David Hawley, retired Pioneer Press theatre critic remembers, it was a tiny space “tucked away on the second floor of the then-headquarters of a scruffy outfit called Minnesota Public Radio.”

Richard came to Park Square in its first year as the designer for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which was being directed by his husband, Steven Kent Lockwood (who retired in 2012 after 32 years as Park Square’s first Executive Director). From there Cook and Lockwood worked on every Park Square season for a few years until Mathey decided to retire for health reasons. Cook offered to shadow him as Assistant Artistic Director and took over in 1980.

Among all my other responsibilities in those first years was to thaw the radiator pipes with a propane torch” — Richard Cook

From Park Square Court to Two Stages in the Historic Hamm Building

During the course of his tenure, Artistic Director Richard Cook conceived, designed (and often helped build) five unique theatre spaces in Saint Paul from that first 80-seat walk up to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage, which opened in 2014. After a major capital campaign, Park Square opened the 200-seat Andy Boss Thrust Stage in 2014 and now operates a 40,000 square foot facility with two theatres, two rehearsal halls, costume and scene shops and offices within in the landmark Historic Hamm Building.

It was in 1977 when he directed Oedipus at Colonus that Cook rearranged the little Park Square Court walk-up into a tiny amphitheater. In 1980, Cook designed a 120-seat, three-quarter round thrust theatre in the basement of the Park Square Court building.

He ran the upstairs theatre by day and built the downstairs theatre at night. I thought he would drop from exhaustion.” – Steven Kent Lockwood

By 1985, Park Square Court’s developers wanted to take over the new theatre to rent to more lucrative clients, and Park Square was itinerant for a season before landing in the Jemne Building, then owned by the Minnesota Museum of American Art. The Jemne Auditorium, remodeled into a 120-seat theatre for Park Square, won the 1987 Interior Architecture Award from the Minnesota Society of the AIA for architect Craig Rafferty.

By 1991, performances at the Jemne were bursting at the seams and Cook decided it was time to make a major move. The 350-seat Seventh Place Theatre (now known as the Park Square Proscenium Stage) became available. After a sold-out summer run of The Mousetrap, Park Square signed its first long term lease in the Historic Hamm Building. The move allowed Park Square to take off — first doubling, then tripling its subscriber base — and providing the capacity to launch its now wildly successful education program.

As Saint Paul’s regional producing theatre with an artistic reach that spans classics to world premiere commissions, Park Square was ready for an additional performance platform that would return the theater to the three-quarter round intimacy of its early years. After a $5.2 million capital campaign, the 200-seat Andy Boss Thrust Stage was added to the existing Park Square Theatre facility within in the landmark 1919 Historic Hamm Building.

Showcasing and Supporting Diverse Talent Season by Season

In 1981, when today’s industry-wide focus on diversity, equity and inclusion was still a long way off, Richard Cook eagerly took an important meeting with a group of African American theatre artists.

Terry Bellamy, Marion McClinton and I had been working at the Penumbra Theatre then,” remembers James A. Williams. “And we’d talked a lot about how we needed to be taken more seriously as ‘theater artists,’ as opposed to ‘black artists.’ Peter Vaughn, the Star Tribune critic, recommended we do a production at a mainstream theatre and he’d give an honest review of it. Marion had this idea of doing Waiting for Godot set in South Africa. So, he pitched it to Richard at Park Square and Richard loved the concept. Vaughn’s review was fantastic! It was a dynamite piece.”

That show led to Park Square’s 1983 production of Boesman and Lena by Athol Fugard, which would be one of James A. Williams first directing gigs. The show featured the Park Square acting debut of Faye Price (now co-Artistic Director of Pillsbury House Theatre), who would later direct Park Square’s world premiere of Nina Simone: Four Women in 2016.

You know what was good about working with Richard Cook? He gave us a chance to do our art. To try things that didn’t quite fit into the boxes that most other theaters wanted to put us in. Most important to us was that it gave us legitimacy as artists.” – James A. Williams

Park Square Theatre’s season-by-season journey toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion has included landmark productions such as Tazewell Thompson’s Constant Star and Mary T. & Lizzie K; Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill; Anna in the Tropics; Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue; The House on Mango Street; Ragtime; The Color Purple; as well as important co-productions with Mixed Blood (Spinning Into Butter) and Theatre Mu (Pacific Overtures and Flower Drum Song).

Your chair is waiting. Bring your story.

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