Beckwith Theatre Company

100 New York Avenue

History of Beckwith Theatre Company

During the mid 19th century, Dowagiac grew up alongside the new railroad to the West. Society here was booming and boisterous as in any frontier town. Whiskey, plentiful as milk, sold for 3 cents a dipper. At one point, Dowagiac boasted 16 taverns, many of them on South Front Street. Since Michigan law allowed only 10 taverns per village, 6 of them sadly closed their doors on a really prosperous trade.

There was more to entertainment than a full dipper, though. Men challenged each other to billiards in the taverns, while townsfolk danced in the halls above them. Bicycle riding and horse racing were popular, along with the fun of Dowagiac Union Fairs, which featured sleigh rides, fresh oysters, and a variety of carnival booths.

On Courtland Street, St. Paul's Episcopal Church hosted concerts and lectures, while the Dowagiac Mandolin Club, the Round Oak Band, and the Beckwith Memorial Theatre Orchestra provided musical fare. The Young Men's Hall alternated between political rallies and theatrical performances.

But the most splendid contribution to early Dowagiac social life was the Beckwith Theatre, located across from the Old Opera House. Built with Round Oak Furnace Company funds, the theater attracted an impressive array of national talent. Lillian Russel sang arias here, and in 1911, John Philip Sousa directed a rousing performance of "The 1812 Overture" and his own "Stars and Stripes Forever".

In January 1990, a group of Dowagiac area residents took steps to revive a part of their heritage by forming The Beckwith Theatre Company, a not-for-profit organization. Initially, over 70 individuals, ranging in age from 7 to 70, devoted their time and talents from acting and directing, to painting and hammering, to establish The Beckwith Theatre Company, for a new generation.


Joe Topp

Sunday, May 13, 2018
I enjoy watching there shows. Everybody does a good job putting the play on. There always looking for backstage help.

Nicole Lucas

Sunday, April 8, 2018
Great community theatre. Have been to a few shows and loved them all.

Sue Shoemaker

Friday, Dec. 8, 2017
Just attended the preview of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some)". Really, really funny! It touches on so many Christmas stories and movies you can hardly keep up. The cast is great, really great and what high energy! Go and get yourself into Christmas!

Mark Conrad

Sunday, May 20, 2018
Good show! Something different

marie sievert

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017
The cast did a great job! The Wine tasting was also a nice touch. Plan on going to more plays!