Theatre at the Milk Building: From Dairy to Drama

You might not think of Lebanon, Indiana as having much to contribute to the stage. Located roughly 30 miles north of Indianapolis, Lebanon is much more of a rural farming community than a hub for actors, actresses, and theater goers, but if you’ve learned anything from Indianapolis performing arts, you know that a theater can spring up in the unlikeliest places. The Theatre at the Milk Building in Lebanon is one such place; as the name implies, dairy has now transformed to drama, and it’s easy to catch a play and meet the actors in this little Indiana town.

Of course, the Milk Building didn’t start out as a theater. Unsurprisingly, it began as the Indiana Condensed Milk Company in 1913. Boone County dairy carriers bought and received milk at the building. In 1914, the Indiana Condensed Milk Co. built a massive plant on the railroad that ran through Lebanon. The factory was the hub around which most of the Indiana Condensed Milk Co. revolved, buying milk from over 2,000 patrons before processing it into condensed and powdered milk. In 1955, the plant was bought out by Kraft, which operated the Milk Building as a milk receiving station until it was sold to the Crystal Dairies Company, which eventually closed the factory down in 1968. The Milk Building still bears part of the original smokestack, which used to read “Wilson’s Milk” but now just says “Milk.”

Needless to say, the Milk Building has not been used as a factory for many years. Nowadays it’s been put to a much more civic minded use: the theatre. The building is now the home of Theatre at the Milk Building, a Lebanon based theater company that puts on plays a few times a year. The troupe actually started in 1990 in Carmel, Indiana as Cool Beans Productions, but by 2000 they had moved to the Union Street Theater in Westfield, Indiana. Before the first production could even begin, however, the Union Street Theater caught fire and made a mess of things, prompting Cool Beans Productions to change venues and names; the group moved to Lebanon and became Theatre at the Milk Building in 2002.

Now entering their eighth year, Theatre at the Milk Building continues to provide fun productions for all ages, giving them a good place in the Lebanon arts scene. Theatre at the Milk Building is known for its fast paced, action packed, humorous performances. They won’t win any awards for heartfelt monologues or groundbreaking plot, but a play at the Milk Building is one of the most fun Lebanon things to do, for sure. Plays performed at the Milk Building include I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, Epic Proportions, and the newest, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic, Dracula, titled Dracula: The True Story.

But there’s one other thing that sets the Milk Building apart from other Indianapolis performing arts venues, aside from its unique history: Backstage at the Milk Building. A huge, 3,000 square foot show room inside the Milk Building, Backstage at the Milk Building has everything the Indiana theater enthusiast could hope for. Vintage movie posters, furniture, strange artifacts like the Spinning Wheel of Chance, old film reels, and even a 1975 Bricklin (a rare Canadian sports car with gull-wing doors, a la the DeLorean) are on sale at Backstage at the Milk Building. It’s a memorabilia lover’s dream, a Lebanon business with strong roots in the town’s past, a shop by collectors, for collectors.

For a unique theater experience unlike anything you’ll find in downtown Indianapolis, head to the quaint burg of Lebanon, Indiana and catch a show at the Milk Building. Though the famed smokestack has crumbled to half its original size, the historic, almost 100 year old building still stands as an important part of Lebanon culture. A true Lebanon attraction, the Milk Building is home to Theatre at the Milk Building, a hilarious theatre troupe that puts on sidesplitting productions for Lebanon residents to enjoy. The Milk Building towers above downtown Lebanon, a symbol of a re-purposed past that should stand long into the future.

Theatre at the Milk Building
904 E Walnut St
Lebanon, IN 46052

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