Herbert Petrie was well known in the Warsaw area, spending most of his life in both the educational and performance sides of show business. During World War II, Major Petrie attended performances at the Penthouse Theatre in Fort Lawton, Washington, the country’s first theatre-in-the-round. When he returned to Warsaw, he remained so interested in the idea that he was determined to recreate the experience here in his hometown.
It all came together in 1955. The actual facility was a tent with a gravel floor, canvas chairs, an old chicken coop that served as the shop where they would build the sets and costumes, and also an area for dressing rooms. The “orchestra” consisted of Vernon Rector playing the Hammond organ.
Around 1961 a theatre building was built on the property. With its wooden shuttered windows and steel roof, the occasional thunderstorm would compete with the onstage performance.
It was a brand new experience: theatre-in-the-round! Audiences so close to the action onstage that they were practically a part of the show. It was the magic of live theatre in Warsaw, Indiana, and somehow it all worked.
Now, 60 years later, audiences continue raving about the unique and intimate theatre-in-the-round setting. Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts showcases some the best talent in the country, producing Broadway quality shows—off Broadway in Warsaw, Indiana.
Today, Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts mission remains alive and vibrant; serving the greater community by providing premier arts and cultural experiences that inspire and empower creativity, learning and achievement for generations to come. Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts is home to Symphony of the Lakes, Wagon Wheel Jr. and Center Street Community Theatre. “Inspire. Create. Achieve. Entertain” for generations to come.