image of walter dallas smiling warmly and looking slightly left towards the viewer. the image is overlaid with a lime green tint

A Legacy of Brilliance

As the first director of the university’s Theater program, Walter Dallas literally set the stage for what would become the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts. It’s only fitting that since his passing in 2020, UArts has announced that a new transformative theater hub on campus will carry Dallas’ name and honor his legacy.

The Walter Dallas Theater will be housed in the soon-to-be renovated Arts Bank at Broad and South streets. In addition to an updated theater space, the facility will include a new music makerspace and a restaurant, classrooms for youth programs, a lobby gallery/museum, and more. By design, the Walter Dallas Theater will offer LGBTQIA+ teens a safe space, reflecting UArts’ commitment to inclusion and honoring its namesake’s legacy.

This is another way to introduce and remind young people of someone who changed the world through art.
— Kikau Alvaro, Interim Dean, Ira Brind School Of Theater Arts

In the meantime, plans are in motion to create intentional, publicly engaged programming at the theater, serving Philadelphians of all ages, including enrolled students, community groups, K–12 learners, visitors, and guests. The programming will begin before the renovation is complete.

Ebonne Leaphart, member of the UArts Board of Trustees and committee chair of the Walter Dallas Theater project, shared, “The theater’s mission is to elevate, honor, and promote theater and performance practices, both locally and globally, by offering out-of-school activities for Philadelphia students and serving the community with meaningful and accessible theater and music programming. We can’t wait to honor Mr. Dallas, while setting the stage for current and future artists of color to shine.”

The Walter Dallas Theater will also encourage tourism and revitalization of the Avenue of the Arts and offer programming that aligns with the city of Philadelphia’s anti-violence goals.

We can’t wait to honor Mr. Dallas, while setting the stage for current and future artists of color to shine.
— Ebonne Leaphart, Uarts Trustee and Committee Chair, Walter Dallas Theater Project

Dallas served as director of the School of Theater when Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and Philadelphia College of Art merged in 1983. During his years in Philadelphia, he also directed the Philadelphia Drama Guild at the University of Pennsylvania and Freedom Theatre in North Philadelphia, where he staged a beloved annual production of Black Nativity. In 2002, Dallas received an Honorary Doctorate from UArts that recognized his contributions to the nation’s theater culture.

“For us, the opportunity to honor Walter Dallas, who was a true pioneer of Philadelphia theater, Black theater, and the School of Theater is an easy one,” said Kikau Alvaro, interim dean of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts. “Alumni far and wide who have gone on to create brilliance in the world consider Walter Dallas and the tools he gave them to be one of the reasons for their success. At this moment, we need to highlight and uplift the LGBTQIA+ community, and this is another way to introduce and remind young people of someone who changed the world through art.”

Over the course of his storied career, Dallas won numerous honors, including an Emmy Award, an Audience Development Committee Inc. National Achievement Award for Excellence in Black Theatre, and two Creative Genius Awards from the Atlanta Circle of Drama Critics. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for his direction of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and also received an NAACP Theatre Award nomination.

Crucial to the vision for the Walter Dallas Theater, Alvaro said, is offering a space for diverse artistic voice and expression.

“The Walter Dallas Theater represents an opportunity to bring people together,” he said. “It will stand among the Wilma Theater, Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Kimmel Campus, and other performance spaces as a prominent home for artists and a safe and inclusive space for all.”

To make a gift to the Walter Dallas Theater project, contact Michelle Sonsino, AVP, strategic partnerships and government affairs, at