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Program Descriptions



For Businesses

Over 76 Years of Theatre In South Dakota


One man's dream of a little theater in the woods took flight. It all started in Custer State Park!


The BHP began as a dream of Dr. Warren M. (Doc) Lee of the University of South Dakota when he brought a small troupe of actors to an abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the Black Hills. His goals were to create high-quality entertainment for locals and visitors to the Black Hills while providing training and employment opportunities for students and theatre professionals in South Dakota. Over seven decades, locals and visitors to the Black Hills have attended theatre in the woods.


Today, the Black Hills Playhouse (BHP) delivers exceptional theatre programs that engage diverse people and strengthen South Dakota communities statewide. A touring children's theatre program, Dakota Players, travels to communities large and small to engage kids with workshops and musical theatre.  Expanding Stage programs of the BHP engage people of all ages and abilities in theatre classes and performances


With offices in Rapid City, Sioux Falls, and Custer State Park the organization is committed to creating theatre that welcomes, celebrates, and promotes the human experience in all its diversity. We seek to collaborate with, employ, share the stories of, and engage individuals of all backgrounds and experiences to foster a healthy environment for opportunity and growth through the power of performing arts. 


Summer Stock Theatre in Custer State Park

Season 76: A Real Ball!


The BHP has been a part of the College of Fine Arts at USD since 1946. Each year, auditions are held across the country in search of talented actors, directors, designers, technicians, and interns. Artists reside in dorms in Custer State Park, rehearse on-site, and performances are held Tuesday - Sunday throughout the summer in a rustic and sweet 345 seat house. ​It has been the tradition of generations of friends and families to attend shows at the BHP in Custer State Park, with approximately 17,000 admissions sold each season.  People often bring picnics to Hab Hall, enjoy the offerings of the BHP Snack Bar, and take time to relax before enjoying a show in a glorious location. 

It takes over $600,000 to produce the 14-week season of the Black Hills Playhouse. Season Sponsorships help pay artists’ salaries, purchase food and production supplies to build costumes and sets, and pay royalties. They also fund programs like BankWest Kids Go Free, tickets for BHP Jr. Campers, and subsidized pay-as-you-can performances.

Dakota Players Touring Theatre For Youth


Dakota Players creates incredible musicals and performing arts workshops that spark creativity, promote healthy expression, and ignite imaginations for participants K - 12 and beyond traveling with costumes, lights, set & sound. 


A touring team of two professional actor/directors to communities large and small across South Dakota working with up to 55 students. Over a week, participants learn the show and perform for friends and family. Nearly 2000 youth will participate this year, with audience attendance at shows topping 7000!

Communities can apply for matching funds from the SD Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts to help offset half of the costs of the program. Development of original productions plus the travel and housing of artists cost comes in at just under $200,000 per year with approximately 1/4 of the cost coming from contributed income.

BHP Jr. Performing Arts Camps for Youth 

Grades 5 - 12


These sleep-away camps in the Black Hills help kids from all over the state meet new friends, explore the world of performing arts and make memories for a lifetime. Professional directors, choreographers, and designers will connect with campers with real-world, experienced theatre artists and educators to rehearse a musical over the week.  


Students learn audition and performing arts ensemble skills in a traditional outdoor camp experience. Visiting artists from across the region act as instructors and student attends a performance of a show at the Playhouse and tours the professional shops. 100-125 youth from all over the state attend the camps. Generous sponsorships make it possible for the BHP to make sure that no child goes unserved and helps keep costs as low as possible for families.

Oceti Sakowin + Dakota Players Theatre Experience

During COVID the Black Hills Playhouse worked with Native leaders, organizations, and artists to develop a virtual learning program designed to teach students about Lakota culture and theatre through the lens of Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings.  This turn-key, easy-to-follow program explores culture and storytelling in video-guided workshops. Each student receives a kit with materials that correlate to activities, worksheets, and reflection exercises. ​This program can be guided by teachers in classrooms or used by youth remotely when necessary, with technical assistance provided by artists of the Black Hills Playhouse.

Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings curriculum is part of South Dakota state standards. This program is currently being developed for in-person learning experiences in 2022 and 2023. It is our goal that students in communities statewide getting the opportunity to learn about Lakota/D/N culture and theatre arts.

Link to Sample Lessons

The Expanding Stage


Through innovative partnerships, teaching artists of the Black Hills Playhouse are transforming lives through theatre programs inclusive of people of all ages and abilities.

In Sioux Falls, the Black Hills Playhouse partners with LifeScape and DakotAbilities and provides professional theatre artists who offer theatre classes and performance opportunities for people with disabilities. Participants' choices are integral in these groundbreaking theatre education programs that focus on social skills, and participants becoming more confident in their communication and performance skills.


The BHP also works with assisted living centers and organizations to provide customized creative aging workshops for the elderly. Aging is an inevitable and joyous part of the human experience. Lifelong involvement in arts programs correlates with positive effects on physical health, mental functioning, and social interaction for older adults, regardless of cognitive ability. 





Black Hills Playhouse

PO Box 2513

Rapid City, SD  57709     

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