Okoboji Summer Theatre

2001 Highway 71 North
Okoboji, IA 51355


Okoboji History:

1953-54: Grinnell College official Kent Andrews converts an old vacant airplane hangar into a theatre on N. Highway 71. The Okoboji Summer Theatre Association is incorporated. Two theatre seasons come and go without success.

1956: A group of faculty and students from Carthage College (in Illinois) rent and operate the theatre.

1957: The theatre’s property owner, Lakes Educational Projects Inc. (a group of 87 shareholders), purchases the theatre from Grinnell and searches for a college to lease it.

1958: The first season opens at Okoboji Summer Theatre with nine Stephens students and 11 faculty members.

1959: Bill West is named managing director. A dormitory/Green Room/cafeteria is added.

1961: Stephens signs a five-year lease for the theatre’s building. Children's plays are performed in the main theatre during the day.

1962: The Lakes Educational Projects Inc. turns the theatre buildings and land over to Stephens. The College agrees to operate the theatre for a minimum of seven years.

1963: Boji Bantam Theatre is constructed. A contest to name the theatre is won by Martin Rickers of Worthington, Minn. The dormitory dining area is expanded.

1964: The theatre is expanded by 100 seats to a capacity of 450. A new front is added as well as a box office and covered area for rainy nights.

1965: Farmers Roy and Flossie Smith give Stephens the three acres behind the theatre, where faculty and staff housing (mobile home trailers) is located.

1974: The Smith farm adjoining the theatre is purchased through a fund-drive in the community. Pledges are honored 100%.

1975: A laundry/rehearsal facility is built on the old hog house foundation; the building is still called "The Hog House." A pole barn for scenery also is constructed.

1976: The Okoboji Summer Theatre Association, the remnants of the Lakes Education Projects Inc., purchases the 12 acres of land north of the theatre from the Smith family, the original property owners.

1980: Addison Myers replaces West as managing director.

1986: Stephens College gains full ownership of the 12 acres of land north of the theatre. FACELIFT campaign raises money for a water line to Okoboji and metal siding for the main theatre.

1989: Bill West, the major force in the theatre since 1958, dies.

1990: Funds raised for the Bill West Memorial Park. Renovation completed on the Boji Bantam Theatre.

1995: A new roof for the building and the T-H-E-A-T-R-E letters, absent for many years, are restored.

1997: Costume area expanded; Boji Bantam Theatre renovation as a second updated performance space is started.

1998: Beth Leonard is named artistic director.

1999: Boji Bantam Theatre renovation completed.

2000: As the result of an end-of-the-season fundraising campaign, a decorative canopy is added to the front of the theatre. There is a continuing effort to beautify the property with new trees and plants.

2001: The fund-raising campaign enabled the purchase of a new lighting system for the theatre. Thanks to a generous donor, three new cabins are moved to the lot for staff housing. Additional repairs continue, including the renovation of the student living quarters.

2002: Four additional cabins are moved to the lot for staff housing. The side bathrooms for the theatre are completely renovated. A new air conditioning system is installed.

2003: Two additional donated homes are added to the lot. Renovation of the kitchen is completed, with the addition of a walk-in refrigerator. OST begins a five-year fund-raising campaign to renovate the theatre interior. It is hoped that the project will be completed in time to celebrate OST’s 50th Anniversary.

2004: Work continues on the house donated for staff living quarters. The renovation campaign for the theatre has surpassed $140,000.

2005: We embark on a chair renovation campaign in addition to the Golf Benefit and Silent Auction fund-raising efforts to reach our goal of renovating the interior of the theatre for the 50th anniversary season in 2007. A sprung dance floor is installed in the Hog House.

2006: Renovation campaign for the 50th Anniversary is in full swing! Renovations to begin immediately following the 2006 season.

2007: Ribbon-cutting is held to celebrate the renovation of the theatre and the 50th Anniversary. The hallmark of the 50th Anniversary was the largest company ever in OST history—with 55 professional guest artists throughout the summer. We began the “Let There Be Light” fund-raising campaign.

2008: We completed construction of the new Joan Bing Kirke Rehearsal Hall, created the Anne Thorne Weaver Patio and renovated the Frances Shloss Green Room. The “Let There Be Light” campaign was completed with the purchase of 40 new light instruments. On a sad note, OST loses long-time friend and facilities manager, Vern Brosh.

2009: OST welcomes Dr. Dianne Lynch as the new president of Stephens College. We completed the “What Did She Say?” campaign with the purchase of several high-tech wireless microphones.

2010: OST kicks off the “There’s No Place Like Home” campaign to build a new residence hall for student housing, as well as kitchen and dining facilities for the whole company. The Guest Artist and Scholarships programs expand.

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