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America's largest non-profit theatre organization and the largest performing arts complex under one roof, the Denver Performing Arts Complex is owned by the City and County of Denver's Arts and Venues division and managed by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). The complex has four resident companies: the Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Opera Colorado, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts repertory company [1; 2]. The ten-theatre complex consists of 12 acres on four blocks, all connected by The Galleria, an 80-foot-high glass roof. Its three largest theatres are the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Boettcher Concert Hall, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, but the complex is also home to a cabaret at Garner Galleria Theatre, the Conservatory Theatre, the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex (comprising the Stage, Space, Ricketson, and Jones Theatres), and the Seawell Grand Ballroom [2].


  • Denver Performing Arts Complex [DPAC] (image from Jamie Cotten, The Denver Post)
  • DPAC's Sculpture Garden (image from DPAC)
  • Entrance to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House (image from DPAC)
  • The "Ellie" lobby (image from DPAC)
  • The "Ellie" auditorium (image from DPAC)
  • Boettcher Concert Hall (image from DPAC)
  • Lobby of the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre (image from DPAC)
  • The Wolf Room in the Temple Hoyne Buell (image from DPAC)

America's largest non-profit theatre organization and the largest performing arts complex under one roof, the Denver Performing Arts Complex is owned by the City and County of Denver's Arts and Venues division and managed by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). The complex has four resident companies: the Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Opera Colorado, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts repertory company [1; 2]. The ten-theatre complex consists of 12 acres on four blocks, all connected by The Galleria, an 80-foot-high glass roof. Its three largest theatres are the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Boettcher Concert Hall, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, but the complex is also home to a cabaret at Garner Galleria Theatre, the Conservatory Theatre, the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex (comprising the Stage, Space, Ricketson, and Jones Theatres), and the Seawell Grand Ballroom [2]. 

History of the Complex

In the 1950s, Helen G. Bonfils, co-owner of the Denver Post newspaper, was one of the city's leading philanthropists, as well as an occasional actress. She built the Bonfils Theatre on Colfax Avenue as a community theatre, performing there with her friends, then partnered with Wall Street lawyer and Broadway producer Donald R. Seawell to bring a professional acting company to Denver in the 1960s. Seawell brought Tyrone Guthrie of Minneapolis to Denver for the creation and direction of the company, but a series of disasters prevented progress. Guthrie died suddenly, Helen Bonfils' health declined to the point that she was permanently hospitalized, and Bonfils and Seawell struggled in a legal battle for the ownership of the Post. The legal battle was won, but Bonfils died, leaving Seawell in charge of the paper in 1972 [1].

Seawell created the Bonfils Foundation using stock from the newspaper and, in the same day, changed the charter of the Bonfils Theatre into the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, gotten agreement from the City of Denver for his plans, and hired Kevin Roche as the architect for the project [1]. Construction on the performing arts complex began two years later, in 1974, with the Berlin Philharmonie inspired Boettcher Concert Hall (opened in 1978) as its centerpiece. The historic Auditorium Theatre (now the Quigg Newton Denver Municipal Auditorium and Ellie Caulkins Opera House) and the multi-theatre Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex were also within Seawell's original complex [2]. Only a year later, two cabaret spaces were added, touring Broadway shows came to the complex, and Denver's repertory company under Edward Payson Call had begun performing in the Bonfils Complex. During the 1980s, the three-year Master of Fine Arts Acting school, the National Theatre Conservatory, was established, new plays were developed by the Theatre Company, and the company was nominated for its first Tony Award. In 1991, the former Auditorium sports arena was remodeled into the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre to better accommodate touring Broadway productions [1]. Also in the 1990s, the DCPA began offering community acting courses, established the Colorado Performing Arts Hall of Fame, and opened its special event venue, the Seawell Grand Ballroom [1; 2]. In the following decade, the complex began hosting Disney Theatricals, established the Colorado New Play Summit, and received an Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts Grant. Donald Seawell retired in 2007, and passed away in 2015 [1].

Today, in addition to performances, the complex offers school programs, acting classes for all ages, workshops, study guides, distance learning, cast interactions, and competitions in playwriting and musical theatre, and hosts field trips, career days, Kids Night on Broadway and Family Day events, the Family Forum, backstage tours, and the Women with Hattitude Luncheon [1].

1. Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Official website. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.denvercenter.org. 2. Denver Performing Arts Complex. Official website. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://artscomplex.com.