Risley Theatre

History of Risley Theatre

Risley Hall room B12 wasn't always a theater. It started out as a ballroom from when the building was an all women's dorm. In 1974 a collection of Risley residents decided they'd rather have a theater than a ballroom, so, in true Risley fashion, they took it upon themselves to make their vision a reality and Risley Theatre was born. The theater space includes 81 seats, a back-stage space, side-stage entrances, a green room, a technical booth, and a box office just outside of the theater entrance. The theater has been programmed with standard sound and lighting systems, adaptable to the many productions it hosts. Costumes, sets, and props owned by Risley Theatre are stored in shops in the Risley Sub-basement, and are available for free use by in-house productions and are available for rent by out-of-house productions.


The theater found its footing and became an accessible place for students on campus to perform their passion. As time went on, more infrastructure was slowly added, and the space continually improved.

Fast forward to around 2012, a Risleyite and his father built the permanent seating over spring break in the theater that still there today. While this was a surprise to the University, it had technically been built by licensed carpenters, so it was allowed to stay.


Today, Risley Theatre acts as both a theatrical production company, producing several productions a semester, and as a student-run theatrical management organization, assembling the rich variety of programming that takes place in Risley Theater each semester. Student Organizations like the Cog Dog Theatre Troupe, the Whistling Shrimp, and Midnight Comedy, just to name a few, perform in Risley Theater. Risley Theatre is a registered student organization at Cornell University. Risley Theatre is funded by rental fees with periodic support from Risley Hall.

Note that Risley Theatre refers to the organization, while Risley Theater refers to the space!

T-Sub is Risley's Hall Council that manages all aspects of Risley Theatre. To volunteer with Risley Theatre, put on a student production, or use our space, you would work with T-Sub! Join them on Sunday Evenings in Risley's Central Living Room at 8:00pm.

Want to propose a production?

Risley Theatre accepts proposals for productions for its Fall or Spring season during the preceding semester. More information about the proposal process is posted during the proposal period. Proposals are submitted online. Much like proposing an event, you have to provide a description of your production and ask for space and time. You will also need to specify technical requirements (and if you need someone to help you with them), and approximate how much money you will need for costumes, props, etc. It is very helpful to have a specific weekend in mind in which you would like to have your performances. You will have the week preceding your show dates to rehearse in the theater itself. Other rehearsal spaces within Risley can be allocated at Kommittee. If you think directing a play yourself is too much work, audition for one (or be part of the tech crew/pit orchestra) instead!