Des Moines Community Playhouse


Mission: To create extraordinary, shared experiences through live theatre. Vision: To be the home for artistic collaboration where any story can be told.

Location: Des Moines (50 miles from Grinnell College)

Needs: We have volunteer opportunities all over the building — building/painting sets, creating/shopping for props, making costumes, working on backstage crews, occasional clerical work, and guest services jobs (like ushering, greeting, etc.) We have activities for people of all ages, skill levels, and interests.



  • One-time events: yes
  • Ongoing: yes – Monthly, Weekly
  • Groups possible? yes

When is service needed: We put on shows all year round, and we’re always open for volunteers

Number of hours: Flexible


  • In-person: yes
  • Hybrid in-person/virtual possible: no
  • Fully virtual possible: no


Prerequisites: You must be at least 16 years of age to work independently in the shop. Those as young as 14 can participate in creative calls if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. If you are looking to volunteer in the costume shop, we prefer you have some sewing experience.

Background check required: yes, for volunteering in Guest Services

Equipment/logistics needed: For working backstage, please come dressed for the job. That means closed-toed shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or getting paint on.  You’re welcome to bring water/snacks or ask if there’s something you need that we have not offered.


Training supplied: Training video for Guest Services (available on-line), any other training needed is supplied on site by staff.

Equipment or logistics supplied: We will provide any tools you need to complete projects.


How to apply: Fill out the volunteer registration form at  Be sure to sign up for our email notices:

Contact: Jada Smith, volunteer coordinator, 515.277.6261,


Operation information: The Des Moines Community Playhouse was founded in 1919 by members of the Iowa Press and Authors Club. Although the Little Theatre Movement was causing similar enterprises to spring up across the country, The Playhouse is unique in that it has operated continuously, under various names and in various homes, since its founding. With more than 100 years of uninterrupted service, The Playhouse is among the six oldest continuously operating community theatres in the U.S. It is also one of the largest community theatres in the U.S. The first paid director of The Little Theatre (The Playhouse’s original name) was a woman: Josephine Hunter Ray. And the first full-time director was also a woman: Pearl Bennet Broxam in 1927.

The Playhouse remains one of the largest subscription performing arts organization in Iowa with 3,500 members. More than 55,000 people attend an average of 12 productions each season, produced by a professional staff of 10 plus more than 1,400 volunteers. The Playhouse education department serves more than 30,000 people annually and consists of a year-round program of classes and camps. The Playhouse continued to produce live theatre during the pandemic, spring 2020-summer 2021. In summer 2020, The Playhouse created live theatre drive-in, an outdoor experience with guests in their cars or on lawn chairs, listening to the actors through an FM radio feed. Theatre moved indoors in fall 2020 with limited seating and groups distanced from each other. In summer 2021, The Playhouse was back outdoors, this time under a tent.

Many of The Playhouse’s students and volunteers have successfully pursued careers in theatre, film and television. While few may be household names, Playhouse alum include Academy and Emmy Award-winning actress Cloris Leachman ( The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Last Picture Show, Young Frankenstein), actress Phyllis Love (The Rose Tattoo, Bus Stop ), actress and singer Claiborne Cary (Silk Stockings, New Girl in Town), director Eddie Rissien (Broadway and Hollywood), actor Michael Cornelison (feature films and television series including Dallas and Remington Steele), actor Chadley Kelderman (regional theatre and film), actor Gerry Neugent (regional theatre), actor Philip Lehl (Blood Brothers, The Kentucky Cycle), and playwright, author, and director Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy, Pieces of April).

Address: 831 42nd Street Des Moines IA 50312

If you are with this organization and need to update your listing, please access our update form on this page: For Community Partners