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This week in Michigan history: The Bonstelle Theatre begins dazzling audiences

December 30, 2012


The Bonstelle Theatre, designed by architect Albert Kahn and opened in 1903 as the Temple Beth-El, opened as an entertainment venue on Jan. 1, 1925. What was then called the Bonstelle Playhouse was the home of the Bonstelle Players, named for the troupe's managing director, Jessie Bonstelle, who bought the old temple for $500,000. Acting alumni include William Powell, Jessie Royce Landis and Oscar winner Gale Sondergaard, according to Wayne State University. The university began renting the beaux-arts-style building on Woodward in 1951 and bought it five years later. Today, it's used for performances by WSU's undergraduate theater department. The 1,200-seat Bonstelle was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.