Mar 28, 2023 - Things to Do

Theater's 100th celebration unveils a Grant Wood discovery

A photo of Grant Wood.

Grant Wood circa 1932. Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images

Hoyt Sherman Place Theater celebrates its centennial with a special performance Wednesday night giving tribute to the celebrities who have graced its stage.

The intrigue: In doing research, show organizers discovered that "American Gothic" artist Grant Wood's 1935 marriage was to a first cousin once removed to Hoyt Sherman, the theater's namesake.

  • Wood's union to singer Sara Sherman Maxon is now speculated to have been a way to squelch rumors that he was gay, Hoyt Sherman Place director Robert Warren tells Axios.

Zoom in: The couple divorced in 1939 after Maxon, a hypochondriac, was hospitalized for a false alarm heart attack.

Catch up fast: Hoyt Sherman, one of DSM's founders, built his personal home at 15th Street and Woodland Avenue in the 1870s.

  • After his death in 1904, Sherman's family donated the mansion to the city, where it has been used as a museum and art gallery for decades.
  • The auditorium was added in 1923 by the Des Moines Women's Club, the social organization still headquartered in the residence.

State of play: The club initially used the theater to host public talks from notable speakers including Wood, Helen Keller, Will Rogers, John Philip Sousa and Amelia Earhart.

  • It has since become a popular concert and performing arts venue following millions of dollars in renovations and expansion of its rehearsal space.

What's happening: Wednesday's variety-style show includes vignettes of some of the theater's past guests, with live performances from local artists including Ballet DSM, B.Well and the DSM Metro Opera.

Of note: Multiple original Grant Wood pieces will be on display.


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