Burlesque ad from September 1912.

Name of Business: The Empire Theater

Date of Ad: April 13, 1913

Date Established: 1892

Neighborhood: Downtown

Notable: Promising a bevy of pretty and sprightly girls, the star attraction, Zallah, featured her own company. A review from George Slaughter republished in the Indianapolis Freeman shortly before the engagement promised “the most meritorious and original show to ever be performed on the burlesque circuit.” A Cabaret Rehearsal” and “The Un-kissed Oriental” where the titles of the two musical reviews performed. Zallah was an Egyptian dancer whose act catered to African American audiences.

Empire Theater Baist 1908

Empire Theater shown on 1908 Baist Map on Wabash between Delaware and Pennsylvania Streets. (Image: IUPUI Digital Archives)

Also of Note: The Empire Theater had a fitting location, located off of the main streets in a dark alley. Burlesque was considered a taboo form of entertainment a century ago. Despite showing motion pictures and vaudeville acts, the theater came under the scrutiny of the public eye by the 1920’s. Around 1930, the building was converted to a parking garage and remains standing today just west of Delaware Street. To read a detailed history of the Empire Theater, click here.

The Empire Theater as it appears today.

The Empire Theater as it appears today.

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