Construction at Diamond Head Theatre has been ongoing since fall 2020. The new theater will welcome guests on Friday with “Cinderella.” (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

Diamond Head Theatre is the third oldest community theater in the nation to be continuously operating. Since opening its doors in 1933, the theater has performed for more than 1 million people.

But for the first time in 90 years, there will be a new facility to house theater performances in the neighborhood. Though construction started in fall 2020, the new theater, built right across the street from Kapiʻolani Community College, is almost complete. With the new state-of-the-art technology, guests will be treated to enhanced performances with the installation of a digital orchestra pit and a fly loft designed to fly components between the audience view and an area out of sight.

The first show in the new theater, “Cinderella,” will premiere on Friday. The show has sold out all 18 performances.

Seats in the new theater are furnished with comfortable cushions. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

The construction cost around $23 million with most of the money coming from the community.

“Ticket sales alone don’t cover our costs,” said Deena Dray, the director of Diamond Head Theatre. “Most of the funds we use comes from generous donations and fundraising. We raise around a million dollars every year.”

Donations that Diamond Head Theatre receive are from grants through foundations and companies. Instead of raising ticket prices, Dray stated that the shows are priced affordably so that more people will have access to theater. Tickets range from $27-$52.

The new theater holds approximately the same number of people as the old theater, seating almost 500 guests at a time. The seats are designed to be more comfortable with plush backings and cushions.

“We want people to see their neighbors,” Dray said. “It makes for a more intimate experience, and we want our guests to enjoy their time with us.”

Additionally, the guest restrooms have been expanded and lined with glamour mirrors and marble counters. With only two or three stalls available in the old theater, long lines were inevitable come showtime.

As guests arrive at the venue, they will be greeted by an open-air entrance that sits next to a garden. The upgraded concession stand is now built-in and conveniently located by the entrance.

Backstage, the area for performers and stagehands has also undergone major changes. The dressing rooms are expected to have new furnishings available, and the lounge for cast members will have the necessary appliances for food, drink, and entertainment. New equipment backstage includes an audiocom device, which will allow cast members to hear what is happening on stage so that they can prepare for set changes or entrances. Motorized pulleys have also been installed, which Dray stated is crucial to simplifying the manual labor that stagehands undergo.

Backrooms for cast members have wall-length mirrors and lights. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

With the new facility, community programs and classes are expected to expand. Classes are available for all ages, and more information is available on the Diamond Head Theatre website.

“We welcome people who are interested in joining us both on stage and in the audience,” Dray said. “We have a team of people who are more than capable of training volunteers, meaning no experience is necessary. For me, I think the most exciting thing is knowing that anyone can walk in the door and audition. People in the community make our productions special, and I encourage you to give it a try.”

After “Cinderella,” the next production this season is “La Cage Aux Folles,” which has showings available from March 24 through April 9. Other shows this season include “The Bodyguard the Musical” and “Disney Beauty and the Beast.” For more information on shows, auditions, and community classes, visit the Diamond Head Theatre website.