A Brief History of the Strand Theatre

1918

November 11, 1918 - The Strand opens as a movie and vaudeville palace. Two celebrations took place in the Uphams Corner community of Dorchester on Nov. 11, 1918: The Armistice was signed that day, ending World War I, and that night the Strand Theater swung open its doors to a grand first-night celebration.

Vaudeville was comedians, singers, plate-spinners, ventriloquists, dancers, musicians, acrobats, animal trainers, and more. Beginning in the 1880s and through the 1920s, vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment in America, and an essential part of every community. (source).

1930's

The Strand introduces "talkies" to audiences with a screening of Marx Brothers movies.

1938-1969

The Strand Theatre in the 1960s.

The Strand continues to run first-run films until 1969, when the theatre closed its doors due to declining ticket sales.

1970's

The Strand is revived! Led by Dorchester resident Thomas McKenna, a group of neighborhood residents create a plan to salvage the theater. They incorporate as the M. Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts to refurbish and reopen the Strand.

1979

The City of Boston takes over. With the support of the City of Boston, the federal Economic Development Administration, and Community Development Block Grant money, the Strand is renovated and the M. Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts signs a 25-year lease of the theater with the City of Boston for a dollar a year.

1980s

Performances come to the Strand. Performers include Tracey Chapman, BB King, Julius Hemphill (with Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera), Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy.

1985-1987

More big names are featured at the Strand! Joe Perry (of Aerosmith), Till Tuesday, and New Kids On The Block all shoot videos at the Strand. Irish theatre group Parnassus brings a production of the play Da by Hugh Leonard over from Dublin for a 3 night run in 1987.

1990's

Programs to serve the inner city youth are initiated. Strand Teen Players emerges as a model program teaching teens every facet of theater production, both creative and technical. Louis Farrakhan speaks at the Strand Jazz/Tap/Hip-Hop Festival sponsored by Dance Umbrella, features a young Savion Glover and the first american performance by the group STOMP.

1991

Phish performs at the theatre in 1990, and in 1991, the theater lights a new marquee with a gala reception.

2000's

The Urban Nutcracker premieres at the Strand. Acclaimed jazz artist Boney James' tour takes on a Strand date, and Pro Arte Orchestra celebrates its 25th anniversary at the Strand with a special concert. LL Cool J plays the Strand, and Can a Woman Make a Man Lose His Mind continues an annual run of gospel play sell-outs.

2004 - Present Day

Mayor Thomas M. Menino appoints a task force to help him set a new vision for the Strand Theatre. Their report can be viewed here. Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis, of American Idol, come to the Strand with the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin'.

Poster for Ruben Studdard's production of