The Keller Auditorium is Portland’s oldest and largest publicly owned theater building. Seating more than 3,000 (depending on the stage configuration), it hosts Broadway touring shows, opera, ballet and more. The Keller occupies a downtown city block across the street from the renowned Keller Fountain.
History of Keller Auditorium
Keller Auditorium opened on July 4, 1917, as the Public Auditorium, serving both as a concert and events venue and the home of the Oregon Historical Society. Much larger in its early days — when its seating capacity was more than 5,000 — the auditorium proved its versatility the very next year when it became a hospital and morgue for victims of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.
In the mid-1960s the auditorium and the neighborhood around it were redeveloped, and in 1968 the new theater, Civic Auditorium, instantly became central to the Portland performing arts scene. The new space hosted touring shows, the Oregon Symphony and Portland Opera, and many other performances that required its spacious auditorium, sharp acoustics and advanced stage technology. Since then, the Keller has received several more renovations to keep it up-to-date. After an extensive one in 2000, it was renamed to honor benefactor Richard Keller. Today it remains a very practical and versatile performance space.
Portland dance has an inventive spirit that welcomes collaborations and often spills beyond the generally accepted boundaries of “dance.”
Portland's opera, symphony and other companies offer an ongoing lineup of inspiring performances, from timeless works to modern interpretations.
Portland has a well-established network of venues and theater companies and an increasingly dynamic and diverse small theater scene.
Resident companies at Keller Auditorium
Broadway in Portland
One of the most frequent entries on the Keller calendar is the Broadway in Portland series. The Keller’s huge stage and vast orchestra section make it a perfect home for touring Broadway spectacles, from “Wicked!” to “Fiddler on the Roof” to the various Disney extravaganzas. No compromises are necessary in the transfer from Broadway to the Rose City.
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Portland’s largest dance company is Oregon Ballet Theatre, and its version of “The Nutcracker” dominates the Keller every December. The company offers a full range of ballets, including edgy contemporary choreographers to traditional story ballets requiring demanding classical ballet chops and characterization. Oregon Ballet Theatre also performs in the smaller Newmark Theatre.
Founded in 1964, the Portland Opera is best known for finding the best up-and-coming singers to sing the great roles in classic operas (Verdi, Mozart, Puccini). In recent years, the company has experimented with much more modern fare. The Opera Chorus is a community institution and the stage design in the Keller can border on the spectacular. The company also uses the Newmark Theatre for more intimate programs.
Other frequent events at Keller Auditorium
Since the 1960s the Keller has hosted its share of rock ’n’ roll shows and still features stops from artists like Iggy Pop, Iron & Wine and David Byrne. Two holiday favorites, The Hip-Hop Nutcracker with MC Kurtis Blow and Portland’s Singing Christmas Tree, pop up each winter. And the auditorium also hosts lectures presented by the World Affairs Council of Oregon and Literary Arts.