Pittsburgh Playhouse photo courtesy of Point Park University.

After more than a decade of planning and two years of construction, Point Park University‘s new Pittsburgh Playhouse is ready to break a leg.

The 90,411-square-foot space brings the University’s nationally recognized theater program into the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh. The playhouse includes three midsize theaters and 91 rooms devoted to classes and technical workshops. Altogether, the arts center cost $60 million to build and furnish.

The University found space for the theater complex by buying and expanding into several historic buildings Downtown that once held iconic Pittsburgh landmarks, including the old stock exchange and former Honus Wagner Sporting Goods.

“We are thrilled to finally pull back the curtain on this amazing new entertainment center in Downtown Pittsburgh,” said Point Park University President Paul Hennigan. “For those of us who have been a part of seeing this building come to life, it’s a very special moment.”

As Ronald Allan-Lindblom, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, explained during a media tour of the building, the space will not only serve performing arts majors. The school will embrace an interdisciplinary approach where every aspect of mounting a successful show, such as marketing and social media, will be handled by students in the relevant departments.

“It will be a resource for the entire community,” Lindblom says.

PNC Theater at Pittsburgh Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Point Park.

The Playhouse is just one of the phases in the University’s larger Academic Village Initiative, which aims to bring more school services and student life into Downtown Pittsburgh. Other aspects of the project include new student apartments on Blvd. of the Allies and the Center For Media Innovation run by Andrew Conte.

The Playhouse will open to the public with a gala and a performance of “Cabaret” on October 13, but classes have already begun. During a media tour on Wednesday, reporters were able to observe students stitching costumes, declaiming Shakespeare and practicing Suzuki method movement techniques.

The bulk of Point Park University’s public performances were previously staged at the old Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland, which had hosted live theater continuously since 1935. Point Park adopted the space in the 1960s.

While the building had mid-century charm and historic significance, Lindblom says it was ultimately a bad fit for the school’s growing ambitions.

“Our makeup room was a single sink,” he says.

Most of all, the Oakland theater forced many students to commute out of the Downtown campus.

“For decades, many of our students, faculty and staff have been separated from the rest of the Academic Village in Oakland, “said Hennigan. “Now everyone will be part of the greater academic community and have an opportunity to be inspired by the energy, vitality and pace of Downtown Pittsburgh. It’s a new beginning and we’re thrilled to finally get started.”

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.