2021 Employee Handbook

Welcome to the  Black Hills Playhouse rev 2021

The Black Hills Playhouse will create inclusive performing arts experiences as South Dakota's leading professional and educational theatre.

We have compiled this handbook to help company members learn about the policies and procedures of our campus. Company members will have a chance to meet co-workers and learn more about Black Hills Playhouse (BHP) history, traditions, activities, rules, regulations and opportunities at the 2021 Company Orientation, starting after breakfast on Tuesday June 1st. Other sessions will be announced for people coming in after those dates. Orientation is mandatory for all company members, regardless of the number of years worked at the BHP.

What is the Black Hills Playhouse?
The Black Hills Playhouse is a not-for-profit theatre company which engages exceptional theatre artists to create work with meaningful community impact, designed to connect people to one another and to their world through the diverse lens of performing arts. Programs offered include a professional summer stock theatre company in Custer State Park,  summer camps, specialty programs inclusive of people with disabilities, and a touring company which takes arts residencies to communities large and small across the region.


The BHP was established in 1946 by Dr. Warren M. “Doc” Lee of the University of South Dakota (USD). Doc Lee’s vision was to provide annual employment for theatre artists in the Black Hills, and provide high-quality entertainment for people who came to the Park. It was his vision and drive which brought the BHP to life. Doc Lee’s photo hangs in the theater lobby and we continue to honor him for his achievements. 

Each summer a company of professional artists, academics, and students from all over the nation come together for a thirteen-week period of intensive summer stock theatre in Custer State Park.  The BHP is nestled in the Black Hills National Forest and is just miles away from Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse National Monuments. 

The company works and lives in a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp which was built in 1934 during the Great Depression. The site includes living and dining facilities for the company as well as production shops, rehearsal hall, storage buildings and a theater. While company members may not have all of the comforts of home, the BHP is located in a magical and beautiful environment which keeps many BHP alums coming back to the area throughout their lives.

Our theater, built in 1955, is a unique 327 seat, modified proscenium theater designed by Doc Lee himself.  We book around 17,000 admissions per year. Approximately 80% of our audiences come from within a 150-mile radius of the theater and include many loyal patrons, some of whom have seen nearly every play produced during our 75-year history. The other 20% of patrons are tourists visiting the Park.


For summer 2021 we are creating an outdoor space that will hold approximately the same amount of people yet allow for better social distancing.  A Covid-19  protocol addendum will be added closer to the start of the season.

The BHP generated controversy as the old CCC buildings outlived their usefulness and presented safety hazards. In 2010, the state closed the site for use and the legislature passed legislation mandating remedy of safety hazards before it could reopen. In 2011, Playhouse supporters raised over $533,000 to meet the state mandate and build a new dining hall. By the end of 2016, the campus received over $1.4 million dollars’ worth of improvements and counting.

The BHP board and staff are working on a revised Master Site Plan and will continue to make improvements as resources allow.  We have lots of folks working as a team to help preserve and improve the BHP for future generations.


Black Hills Playhouse Partners, Board, Staff & Volunteers
The BHP is a cooperative partnership between the not-for-profit Black Hills Playhouse, Inc., the State of South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, & Parks Custer State Park, and the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota.

There is a 25-member Board of Directors that serves the BHP. These volunteers are devoted to doing what it takes to make the company sustainable while honoring its long history. They work year-round on maintenance projects, planning for the organization, and fundraising. 70% of BHP income is earned through ticket and retail sales, with 30% raised on the off-season through grant writing and annual giving from patrons and special events. Without the Board’s work and the generosity of many volunteers and donors, the BHP would not exist. We ask that all company members make volunteers feel welcome when they visit as they are great folks who devote a lot of time, talent, and treasure to help support the company.

The Black Hills Playhouse’s year-round staff includes Executive Director Linda Anderson, Artistic Director Dan Workman, Associate Director Randy Niles, Director of Education Deb Workman, Assistant Director of Education Katryna Preston, and Development Operations Manager Darla Drew Lerdal.  It is a small but mighty crew who work tirelessly to fundraise, manage capital improvement and maintenance projects, produce our education programs, market the season, hire the company, make all of the preparations necessary to receive company members and audiences for the season, and close down the campus after the season ends.

The Black Hills Playhouse 2021 Season, Ticket Prices & Comp policies
Ticket and show information can be found at www.BlackHillsPlayhouse.com. Adult tickets range from $32-$35 dollars each, and youth (18 & under) price is $16 per ticket. Alums may buy tickets at $25 per ticket at any time. Each company member will be assigned 3 comp tickets for the summer to use any way you choose. Tickets must be reserved through the Box Office using a special pass code. If you don't plan to use your comp tickets, you may gift them to others as long as the Box Office staff uses your code. Please see the ticket office to get more details on how this works. If you need additional tickets, they may be purchased at our discounted subscriber rate.  Just ask for the discount.

Company members are invited to watch shows if duties permit and space allows. If you have children, please choose seats strategically in case you need to leave the theater. Parents of young children who make noise during a production are expected to take them out so they do not disturb our patrons. Ushers will give a friendly reminder if this doesn't happen in a timely way.

The Wednesday before each production opens is Company Watch. This is a chance for the designers, director, actors and tech personnel to refine the production while working in front of an audience. Company members should behave as audience members and not distract the cast and crew.

The Thursday before each production opens is a special Park Preview where members of the press, alums, Custer State Park staff and tourism professionals are invited to view the show for free. These performances are very popular and give us great word-of-mouth advertising. We almost always host a full house!

A popular program is the BankWest Kids & Teens Go Free. For every adult ticket sold, patrons are encouraged to bring two youth, ages 18 & under, free to see the shows on select performances. This is intended to develop the next generation of theatre goers while making theatre affordable for families.

Expectations of Company Members
At the BHP, we are serious about delivering high-quality theatre productions for our patrons, while at the same time providing a worthwhile educational experience for students. We work long and hard hours and expect everyone to cooperate as a team to produce the best theatre possible with the resources available. Attitude is important and company members who show initiative and a generous spirit have the chance to be chosen for various awards and scholarships at the end of the season through endowed funds at the USD Foundation called the BHP Extra Mile Awards.

All members of the BHP Company are expected to participate in any and all aspects of theatre production as needed. In addition, since we live in our own community in the middle of a forest, all company members are expected to assume their share of basic daily maintenance of the living quarters, dining hall, production shops, dressing rooms, and other facilities as needed. A duty roster system is utilized to assign people for many of these responsibilities and posted each Friday for the following week on the bulletin boards in the dining hall.

It is equally important that all company members conduct themselves in a mature and responsible manner in the social aspects of the community. Our campus is close to a public campground, we come in contact with many tourists, and it is expected that each member of the company uses good judgment in all areas of personal conduct. In 2011, the BHP Board of Directors adopted an alcohol and drug policy. Each member of the company will be required to read and sign a copy of the policy and will be expected to abide strictly to the policy.

Each season we try to offer a number of options for company activities in addition to long-standing traditional events at the BHP, all with the intention of making your time at the BHP a healthy, educational, and one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll hear more about these options at orientation.

Black Hills Playhouse Alums & Alumni Association
More than 5,000 people have participated in the Black Hills Playhouse program over the past seventy-three years. Many of these people are now working in television and film, and in professional, educational, and community theatres throughout the nation. The BHP is proud of its reputation of being a quality professional theatre. We are also proud of our association with the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota.

The Black Hills Playhouse Alumni Association is the not-for-profit organization which partners with the Black Hills Playhouse, Inc. to support operations and capital projects at the Black Hills Playhouse and keeps historical records of company members. People are members by virtue of their association with the BHP (company or board members - there is no membership fee).  Since 1995, the BHPAA has raised over $336,000 for projects that have improved the Black Hills Playhouse. Playhouse alums often visit our campus.  Please do your best to make alums feel welcome.

BHP Policies & Important Stuff You Need to Know
Any rules that we issue are presented in the spirit of strengthening the unity of the company and are meant to be enforced through each company member’s personal discipline. Housing at the BHP is at a premium as we have lost a number of housing structures in recent years. Since company members live in close quarters and people of various ages are hired, it is important that people are respectful and do their best to follow dormitory rules. 

Dormitory Rules

  • NO OVERNIGHT GUESTS WITHOUT MANAGEMENT APPROVAL. This is an ongoing point of discussion if guests will be allowed due to Covid-19 and the safety of the company. If a disaster were to strike the camp, it is imperative that we know who is housed so we can ensure everyone’s safety in an emergency.

  • Due to our antiquated sewer system and to be more environmentally responsible, please keep showers short and conserve water as much as possible.

  • Do not overload circuits with electrical equipment.

  • Do not place any articles, bedding, etc. near heaters as this is a serious fire risk.

  • Turn off heat and lights in rooms when you leave in the morning.

  • No pets for company members housed in dormitories with shared bedrooms and bathrooms. 

  • Keep your room, bathroom and hallways clean.

  • Report problems and maintenance issues immediately on the maintenance log located on the bulletin boards in the dining hall. 

  • Be respectful of your neighbors and keep things quiet. People work hard and need to rest to stay healthy and alert on the job.

  • Take care of each other.


You will be expected to return your keys at the end of the summer. Any lost key will cost $5.00 to replace. Please do not lock the main entrances to the dorms or the laundry rooms.

Checking out at the end of the season
Before you can leave campus, your room must be cleaned and all Snack Bar accounts settled. You will be checked out by a staff member and responsible for any damage to rooms or furnishings. Failure to do so will result in the withholding of your final paycheck of the season.

Telephone & Internet
There is limited cell service in Custer State Park. We are in a low-lying mountain range in the middle of a forest. This means you cannot rely on your cell phone as a timepiece, alarm, or communications device. The Business Contact number is 605-255-4910. People should understand that when they call, they most likely will need to leave a message and wait for a company member to call back as people are not usually in physical proximity to the Business Office. Please keep personal calls to a minimum. Personal phone calls will not be accepted in the Ticket Office.

Our internet capacity is limited and the internet’s primary function is for Business Office and Box Office use. Streaming is prohibited as it eats much of the bandwidth, leaving other company members unable to check their emails, pay bills, etc. People often go to nearby lodge properties to use the internet for these purposes. Be respectful and use the internet only as necessary. Internet and cell phone withdrawal is a common ailment for new company members!

Mail Boxes and Mailing Address
Company mail may be sent to the following address after May 29:

Black Hills Playhouse
24834 S Playhouse Rd
Custer, SD 57730

Please make sure that relatives and friends do not send mail to the billing address in Rapid City listed on our website. It might eventually arrive—but will take more time. Mailboxes are located in the dining hall. Outgoing mail should be placed in the outgoing box over the mailboxes by lunch or taken to the Box Office for pickup by noon. There is no direct mail service to our campus. We go offsite to deliver and retrieve mail, either to Custer or to our mailbox near one of the entrances in Custer State Park.

You can place a TEMPORARY change of address through your post office to have your mail forwarded to the BHP during the summer.  But, DO NOT at the end of the summer place a change-of-address through the Custer Post Office. The Custer Post Office will neither acknowledge temporary, summer change-of-address forms nor will they take change-of-address forms at the end of the summer.  We recommend having a friend or relative forward your mail. 


Custer State Park requires all vehicles entering the park to purchase and display a State Park Entrance License. This is a window sticker and allows you entrance to all of South Dakota’s State Parks. The Playhouse will provide one sticker to each company member who needs it for their personal vehicle as a benefit.

Other items of note:

  • Unless it is for Playhouse business, please do NOT remove equipment from the production shops, dining hall, theater, or anywhere else without permission. 

  • BE MOST CAREFUL WITH FIRE! We live in a forest and conditions can be extremely dry.

  • No stick or non-safety matches.

  • Field strip cigarettes and cigars outside and throw butts in the nearest trash receptacle. 

  • Firecrackers, firearms, etc. are not allowed in Custer State Park.



When you come to the BHP, remember you will need to bring identification documents so we can establish your identity and employment authorization on an I-9 form. A valid passport will both establish identity and employment authorization. 


If you do not have a passport, you will need to present two of the following documents: A. driver's license or ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or a school ID card with a photograph AND B. a social security card (not a copy) or an original birth certificate, certification of birth abroad, or Native tribal document. We cannot issue paychecks until this has been filled out as a part of your orientation, so please, don't forget!

Daily Schedule:
8:00am....Production Meeting - Dining Hall, Admin Meeting - Snack Bar

8:30am....Breakfast - Dining Hall (Mandatory)
9:30am....Rehearsal/Crews unless otherwise specified at breakfast announcements
12:00pm...Lunch - Dining Hall
1:30pm....Rehearsal/Crews unless otherwise specified
4:30pm....Break or Theater Clean-up
5:00pm....Dinner - Dining Hall
6:30pm....Show/Front of House Call unless otherwise specified
Post-Show…Snacks - Dining Hall


Sundays:  10:30am Production Meeting, Admin Meeting - Snack Bar


1:00pm...Show/Front of House Call unless otherwise specified

5:00pm...Dinner - Dining Hall (EXCEPT before a day off when dinner is not served)


Days Off

Days off are always our dark Mondays.  Days off will look different this year in order to keep our company members as safe as possible. 

Further details will be forthcoming as we continue to work on our company safety protocols for this summer.

What to Bring

  • Bed linens (We will send out a list of who needs what sizes after room assignments are made)

  • 2 or 3 blankets (It’s cold in June!)

  • Pillows

  • Towels/washcloths

  • Clothes hangers

  • Toiletries

  • Warm coat (It’s often wet & cold in June. It has even been known to snow!)

  • RAIN COAT (Seriously, you’ll want one)

  • Overshoes/Boots! We’re in the forest, and it gets extremely muddy when it rains. Rubber/waterproof boots are HIGHLY recommended

  • Shower shoes

  • Warm clothes (layers are so, so important)

  • Cool clothes (most spaces are not air conditioned and it gets HOT in July and August)

  • Work clothes and closed toe shoes – Everyone participates in strike, including management and customer service staff

  • Yoga or exercise mat or towel

  • Sunscreen (did we mention we’re in a forest?)

  • Nice clothes for usher duties and events. EVERYONE will partake in these duties

  • Flashlight (It’s super dark in the forest!)

  • Alarm Clock (your cell phone may not work as an alarm clock)

Personal Clothing
The Black Hills Playhouse is both practical and comfortable. Plan to include jeans and shorts. Bring a pair of stout walking shoes which work for rocky terrain. There is a lake ¼ mile away so include a swimming suit if you so desire. Be sure to bring WARM clothes as it is cool at night in the mountains and cool clothes for hot days later in the summer. You should bring appropriate dress clothes for front of house duties.

VOLLEYBALL, Capture the Flag, Books, deck of cards, Frolf, games, journals, cameras, hiking, visiting local attractions on days off, camp “holidays” and gatherings, campfires………remember, no streaming on campus. So Netflix,YouTube, etc. are prohibited. We can tell if you’re streaming and we will cut off access without warning. There is a DVD player (with some DVDs) and TV, so feel free to bring movies.


EVERYONE PLEASE BRING YOUR PERSONAL MAKE-UP KIT, including everything from base to cold cream, from eye to lip liner.

●     MEN:
○   Dance shoes-black, tie up, low heel
○   Dance belt/jock strap
○   Dance rehearsal clothes; sweats, shoes

●       WOMEN
○   Black character shoes
○   Foundation garments; bras, slips, girdles
○   Dance rehearsal clothes; sweats, leotard, etc.
○   Other shoes for use on stage


Sexual Harassment

Title IX of the U.S Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Discrimination based on sex, race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, gender, gender identification, transgender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status or on any other status that may become protected under law against discrimination is likewise prohibited.


Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can also include sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence, stalking and sexual coercion. *The Black Hills Playhouse and University of South Dakota will strive to keep all reported information confidential, however it may not be able to guarantee such a request if in doing so may potentially jeopardize the safety of the campus community or if other legitimate reasons may necessitate such disclosure.


Compliance and Contact Info

The Black Hills Playhouse is dedicated to fostering an environment which respects the rights of all individuals and values the promotion of both a work and educational environment free of gender bias. In accordance with federal and state laws and the policies of the South Dakota Board of Regents, the university takes an active role in addressing sexual violence both on and off campus. This approach includes but is not limited to: the offering of effective programming designed to help prevent sexual assault, the prompt and efficient investigation of all reported incidents, and the providing of resources and services as well as any other reasonable assistance requested under Title IX. At the Black Hills Playhouse, the Executive Director, Linda Anderson, serves as the point of contact. She may be contacted at landerson@blackhillsplayhouse.com or by phone at 605 939-5271. At USD, the University Title IX Coordinator serves as the point of contact for those seeking information or wanting to report violations of human rights, acts of discrimination/harassment, sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking and other forms of sexual misconduct. If you have been subject to any type of sexual misconduct or would like more information on how the university can assist you, contact the Title IX Coordinator:

Jean Merkle

Director of EEO/Title IX Coordinator

Slagle Hall 205

Phone: 605-658-3665

Email: Jean.Merkle@usd.edu


Any person who either files a complaint or is a witness and or involved in any stage of the investigative process will not be subject to harassment, interference, intimidation or retaliation.  https://www.sdbor.edu/policy/documents/1-17.pdf


In Conclusion
We sincerely look forward to meeting you or welcoming you back.  The company is the heart and soul of the work of the BHP and the art we create together is incredible. If you have any questions about anything else you think you'll need, please don't hesitate to contact Randy Niles (randy@blackhillsplayhouse.com) or Dan Workman (dworkman@blackhillsplayhouse.com) by email or at 605-255-4910. See you at the Playhouse!