Designed and constructed as America's first civic playhouse, the building today known as the Boston University Theatre was the first tax-exempt theatre established in the nation. Construction having begun in 1923, it was formally opened with Sheridan's The Rivals on November 10, 1925. The architect was J. Williams Beal Sons.
Originally named the Repertory Theatre of Boston, the theatre was built to be a permanent home for the Henry Jewett Players, a Boston-based repertory theatre company. In choosing to locate the theatre across from Symphony Hall and near the Museum of Fine Arts and the old Boston Opera House, the theatre's creators intended to signify its character as a major cultural institution of Boston and its difference from the commercial playhouses in the Boylston, Washington, Tremont streets area of the city.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the theatre was known as the Esquire Theatre and was mainly used as a movie house.
In October 1953, Boston University purchased the facility, and the vision which had initially created the theatre again began to be realized. The School of Theatre at the Boston University College of Fine Arts has now used the theatre as a facility for performance, design, and technical production for three decades.
Its students and faculty annually present approximately seven productions in the theatre's main auditorium and in the upstairs space, now called the Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley Studio 210, which was originally the Repertory Theatre's ballroom.