In Indianapolis, at the very heart of the Mass Ave Arts and Theatre District in Chatham Arch, you’ll find a true Indianapolis original living work of art, Theatre on the Square. Founded in 1988 by current Executive Artistic Director Ron Spencer and a group of friends, the theatre was originally located in another Indianapolis historic neighborhood, Fountain Square. An eighty seat playhouse, with a single performance space, the theatre outgrew its first home after five years and was relocated to 627 Massachusetts Avenue, a mere half a block from Chatham Square. The Board of Directors voted to retain the incorporated name of Theatre on the Square and this move prompted then Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith to declare the Massachusetts Avenue corridor Indianapolis’ Official Arts District. It has since become known as Indianapolis’ Arts and Theatre District. TOTS, which has become the official nickname of the theatre, now boasts two stages and produces year round. Stage 2 is an intimate cabaret setting with tables, chairs and bar stools and seats sixty while the Mainstage, with comfortable, new traditional theatre seating can accommodate one hundred-thirty patrons.
The theatre has won numerous awards for Best Production, acting, directing and design and Spencer, throughout his career in Indianapolis, has earned over three dozen awards for acting, directing, choreographing, dancing and the designing of sets and lights. He also received the E. Edward Green Lifetime Achievement Award from the Encore Association, a Cultural Visionary Award from NUVO Newsweekly and was an inaugural Creative Renewal Fellowship Award recipient from the Arts Council of Indianapolis.
The theatre originally focused on producing Indianapolis premiers and more traditional theatrical fare but has since built a reputation as Indianapolis’ Off-Broadway playhouse. A minimum of twelve shows per year are produced on both stages and are now almost exclusively original plays, musicals and premieres of lesser known works from Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway in New York, the NoHo district of Los Angeles, Hollywood and other major cities in the U.S. and Canada. To date, TOTS has produced over two hundred-fifty plays and musicals and is also very active with local producing groups, Universities and the annual Indianapolis Fringe Festival. Some stand-outs in the 24 year history of the theatre include: The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Southern Baptist Sissies, Equus, Close Ties, A Shayna Maidel, Chess, Torch Song Trilogy, Jewtopia, Evil Dead: The Musical, When Pigs Fly and Proof. The theatre has also produced a number of Spencer’s original works including: America’s Next Top Bottom; a re-working, expanded version of Paul Rudnik’s Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach; Bitch Session; Assorted Fruits and Vegetables; and Dearest: The Mommie Musical. Next season the unique, adventurous theatre will celebrate having reached its quarter-century mark.