On Our Side

Siding & Insulation Campaign 2021 

Strengthen & Preserve Our Theater

Keep the Air Conditioning INSIDE of the Building

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On Our Side Campaign 2021-2022

Siding & Insulation Project 

Warren M. Lee Theatre

Black Hills Playhouse


Update of Project 11.15.21

The Warren M. Lee Theatre has undergone a significant renovation with the addition of new siding & trim, insulation, soffit, and fascia all around the theater. By merely stepping inside, one can immediately see and feel the differences. The temperature holds quite well and no more are the days of seeing sunlight through the eves and at the base of walls around the theater. 


From the outside, the replacement LED light fixtures set on motion sensors offer an energy efficient option with a sleek appearance.  The fantastic weather this fall and the professional management of the project by the contractor and BHP staff made it possible to finish Phase One (except for some trim, painting of doors, and signage which will happen in the spring), and go on to Phase Two, the theater roofing project, which had been originally scheduled for spring. This is an incredible opportunity as weather is often fickle in spring right before we start the season and it will make the theatre more weather resilient.


During the removal phase of construction, it was discovered that a portion of the sill plate on the north side of the theater, parallel to a sidewalk, was destroyed from stormwater not being adequately diverted.  It has been determined by the Physical Plant Committee, under advice from a local architect, that the BHP consider redesigning the walkway that will require considerable regrading of the surrounding area, installation of a drainage system, and then pouring of new concrete or installation of a paver system.  Rough estimates put this expense at approximately $10,000; however, based on the need to preserve and protect the siding and structural elements of the building, we consider it absolutely necessary that we incorporate this project into Phase Two. While the budget has stayed consistent for the project, we will use the entire contingency plus a little more depending on final cost projections of finishing projects..


Synopsis of Project

The On Our Side Siding and Insulation Project presents the opportunity to preserve the historic theatre at the Black Hills Playhouse for the next 75 years of professional summer stock theatre in Custer State Park. Built in 1956, much of the Warren M. Lee Theatre still has its original siding.  Through hail storms, budget crises, and a global pandemic, many things have changed.  However, the original siding remains. 


However, the siding is weathered beyond repair, paint is peeling, it is buckling away from the walls. It is literally crumbling in places and with every passing season, the likelihood of the elements deteriorating the very framing of the building increases.  If we do not take action now, we will see our beloved theater home continually weaken until it, too, is beyond repair.  


Here’s the silver lining: New siding presents the rare opportunity to insulate our theater, ensure structural integrity, and add a weatherproof envelope to the entire building.  This might come as a surprise, but our theater was never insulated.  Why would it be? It was built for summer-only use long before the widespread popularity and feasibility of air conditioning as we know it today.  Now that we have air conditioning, we need to properly insulate the building which will greatly reduce energy costs and increase comfort for both artists and patrons in the theatre. Through the On Your Side campaign, Black Hills Energy can help preserve this historic theatre while greatly improving its appearance and energy efficiency. 


Summary of process and materials:

  • Removal of old siding and needed repair of framing. 

  • Insulation of walls and attic spaces above dressing rooms, stage, and restrooms.

  • Installation of wall sheathing, adding shear strength to the overall structure.

  • Installation of house wrap adds another layer of protection to the elements.

  • Installation of new siding, fascia, and soffit. 

  • Replacement of damaged rain gutters.

  • Replacement of roof with insulated panels and new shingles.

  • Air conditioning to backstage

  • Acoustic retune of the theatre after insulation

  • Repair of silt plate deterioration and diversion of water



  • Fall of 2021 and Spring 2022


Total est cost of project including contingency: $275,000


The Black Hills Playhouse (BHP), associated with the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota, is unique to our region, providing high-quality, professional theatre productions for residents and visitors to the Black Hills, as well as diverse artistic and educational opportunities for theatre professionals and students in our unique, idyllic setting in Custer State Park. 


Hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed countless theatre productions since 1946, and thousands of students have received training, with alumni spanning the country and beyond. Entering its 75th season, the Black Hills Playhouse is one of the oldest continuously running summer stock playhouses in the nation and a worthwhile investment.


In addition, the BHP has children’s touring programs which take excellent theatre education opportunities to all corners of South Dakota, holds summer camps in the Black Hills for kids in grades 5th - 12th, and produces productions inclusive of kids and adults with disabilities.  In 2020, much of this programming has gone online due to the pandemic.


The Challenge

The challenge we currently face is that most of the current siding on the Warren M. Lee Theater, affectionately dedicated to our founder, “Doc” Lee, is the original wooden siding that was placed on the structure when it was built in 1955. Over the years it had endured considerably well, but now it must be replaced as quickly as possible. Due to hail, wind, and harsh sunlight, the siding has deteriorated in several areas to the point where it is splitting, rotting, and buckling from the framing of the building.  


Moisture is the #1 enemy of any building.  With the current condition of the siding, moisture is infiltrating the building and will continue to do so unless new siding is put into place. If the old siding is not removed and replaced with new, we will see this historic structure crumble, rot, and become condemned. 


Energy efficiency is also a concern. Currently, no insulation exists whatsoever in the entire theater.  What that means is sound infiltration from the outside, whether it’s a motorcycle or an air conditioning unit.  What that also means is that despite the air conditioning running all day in order to keep the theater comfortable for patrons and company members, heat continuously pours into the theater, causing extra wear and tear on the ventilation system as well as steep electrical bills. 


The Solution, Process, & Silver Lining

Preserving the Warren M. Lee Theater is at the forefront of this project.  By replacing the old siding with a new durable product with a 30+ warranty, as well as adding insulation, the structure will have for the first time ever a weatherproof envelope and provide years of protection and comfort. 


Through a process of removing the existing 65-year-old siding, insulating the walls and

ceilings, adding a layer of wooden sheathing that adds durability and added insulation value, wrapping the entire structure in a weatherproof material, and installing new siding to the entirety of the structure, the Warren M. Lee Theater will be preserved for generations to come. Despite the cost of the project, a silver lining may be found in the increased energy efficiency that will occur. Adding insulation to all walls and ceilings will increase the energy efficiency of the structure, with decreased utility costs and increased comfort levels of our patrons and company members. 


The pandemic also provides a silver lining in that the Playhouse will hold its 2021 Season in a new outdoor venue, the New Frontier Theatre that is being constructed to keep people socially distanced and safe. Since the theatre will not be in use, it provides more flexibility in terms of the construction schedule for the contractors if funding can be secured. 

Please consider a gift for this important project today.  For more information contact Linda Anderson, Executive Director, 605 939-5271, or linda@blackhillsplayhouse.com. Donations may be mailed to: BHP, PO Box 2513, Rapid City, SD  57709.  BHP alums, please indicate that your gift is coming from an alum and it will be credited to the 75K for 75 Years Campaign.

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