Portland Center Stage is the largest theater company in Portland, and among the top 20 regional theaters in the country. Established in 1988 as a branch of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the company became independent in 1994. Portland Center Stage’s home is at The Armory, a historic building originally constructed in 1891. After a major renovation, The Armory opened in 2006 as the first building on the National Register of Historic Places, and the first performing arts venue in the country, to achieve a LEED Platinum rating. An estimated 160,000 visitors attend The Armory annually to enjoy a mix of classical, contemporary and world premiere productions, along with the annual JAW: A Playwrights Festival, and a variety of high quality education and community programs.
Portland Center Stage at The Armory inspires our community by bringing stories to life in unexpected ways.
Theater often brings productive discomfort to the surface. Portland Center Stage at The Armory is committed to grappling with that discomfort, on and off the stage, and we invite members of our community to participate in that growth process with us. Our goal is to co-create safety for our community by identifying and interrupting instances of racism and all forms of oppression when we witness them, through specific actions rooted in the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA).
Portland Center Stage began as OSF Portland, the northern sibling of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. After years of planning and preparation, the company was successfully launched on November 12, 1988, with an opening night performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House and a gala celebration. With Dennis Bigelow as artistic producer, the company grew steadily in its first four years, producing five to six shows each season at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. In the fall of 1992, Pat Patton was named associate artistic director/Portland by OSF, and guided the company's growth for the next two seasons, its last as a branch of OSF.
In September 1993, OSF's Board of Directors approved a recommendation from its Portland advisory committee that the Portland branch become an independent theater company. So after six successful seasons at OSF, Elizabeth Huddle was selected as producing artistic director in 1994 to oversee both the artistic and administrative sides of the newly independent company: Portland Center Stage.
In May, 2000, Chris Coleman, co-founder and artistic director of Actor’s Express in Atlanta, became the theater’s fourth artistic director. In his first season, he launched several creative initiatives, including the production of A New Brain, the theater’s first musical, and its first second stage production, Dael Orlandersmith’s one-woman show The Gimmick. Under his leadership, Portland Center Stage received the largest gift in the theater’s history at that time — a $1.35 million, three-year grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust. In the 2003-2004 season, Portland Center Stage expanded the number of productions from six to seven and began presenting works in both the Winningstad and Newmark Theatres.
In April 2004, the company announced a $32.9 million capital campaign to create a new theater complex in the historic First Regiment Armory Annex building, originally built in 1891. The facility would house the 590-seat U.S. Bank Main Stage, the 190-seat Ellyn Bye Studio, administrative offices, a rehearsal hall, and production facilities. The company also continued to rent the 20,000 square-foot warehouse on Front Avenue to construct sets and props.
The Armory opened to the public as the new home of Portland Center Stage on October 1, 2006. The company continued to grow and, in 2018, welcomed Marissa Wolf, the former associate artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre as its fifth artistic director. The company currently offers around 10 productions each season, along with over 400 community events created — in partnership with local organizations and individuals — to serve the diverse populations in the city. Portland Center Stage has become a major destination in the city, attracting local audiences and travelers from across the country and abroad.
Honoring Native Lands
We at Portland Center Stage acknowledge that the Portland metropolitan area rests on the traditional village sites and summer encampments of the numerous Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia (Wimahl) and Willamette (Whilamut) rivers. Today, Portland’s diverse and vibrant Native communities are 70,000 strong, descended from more than 380 Tribes, both local and distant. We take this opportunity to offer respectful recognition to the many people of the river, and their summer guests — and to the Native communities in our region today, the Oregon Tribes, and those who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.
Portland Center Stage at The Armory is committed to identifying & interrupting instances of racism & all forms of oppression, through the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA).