Best New Playhouse - 2008
Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
This was a tough call because there are actually a whole bunch of new arts venues that were contenders for this honor. There's the big, weirdly futuristic Tempe Center for the Arts, with its vast, roomy lobbies and colossal, unfathomable parking lot. There's the big, pretty Mesa Arts Center, with its architecturally interesting façades and several sizable playhouses. But it's the cute, quaintly cozy new Peoria Center for the Performing Arts that really stole our heart. Nestled onto a busy street in downtown Peoria, this state-of-the-art playhouse offers a 280-seat main stage on which resident company Theater Works presents its season each year, and a smaller, 100-seat black box theater where new and visiting companies can strut their stuff. Professional lighting and sound equipment make each of the center's shows all the more dazzling, and the cool concession stand is a rarity in any theater venue, large or small. Inside, we love the lobby's visual-arts gallery, and outside we dig the Moderne architecture and the groovy copper roof. And, okay, so the parking lot is itsy-bitsy. We don't mind parking around the corner and walking, because we're so looking forward to this groovy new theater destination as we drive there.