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The Discovery Theater is a theater for children run by the Smithsonian Institute. Originally opened as a small puppet theater, the Discovery Theater works to give children diverse learning experiences on stage, putting on productions that allow children to discover and learn about different cultures, science, and diversity while having fun. Today, the Theater continues to offer numerous performances, striving for scientific and cultural accuracy, as well as the most fun that children can have learning.

  • A view of the S. Dillon Ripley Center, which houses the Discovery Theater.

The Discovery Theater initially did not have its own building or its current purpose. At its founding in 1964, the Discovery Theater was the Smithsonian Puppet Theater, a small show for children that was performed in a small space in the Natural Museum of American History. The Puppet Theater worked to bring learning to children just as the rest of the Smithsonian strived for, and in became so popular that it was moved to the Arts and Industries Building in 1979. With its new space, the Smithsonian Puppet Theater renamed itself the Discovery Theater, as it began to feature new kinds of performances, such as acoustic music, mimes, storytelling, and other such events. This was merely a small part of the Theater’s mission to make learning accessible to children, however.

By 1995, the Discovery Theater began including performances that focused on cultures and heritage, as well as performances that made math and science simple and accessible. It was the inclusion of these new programs that made the Discovery Theater more accessible as a location for learning, and it was made immensely popular among parents and teachers, as well. As the Theater gained a great deal of visitors, it is no surprise that by 2004, the Discovery Theater was in need of some renovations. Soon after it closed, the Discovery Theater re-opened with newly refurbished amenities and a boutique performance space that gave the Theater expanded opportunities to fulfill their mission of spreading knowledge.