Jeff @25

Jeff Chelesvig

Twenty five years ago, this Belmond, Iowa native left the sunny shores of St. Petersburg, Florida with a song in his heart and big dreams to make Des Moines a leading destination for live professional theater. 

And as they say in show business, he’s been a hit! 

This month, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our President and CEO Jeff Chelesvig.

Since Jeff first stepped into his then-role as General Manager of the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines January 9, 1995, his accomplishments are nothing short of breathtaking. Thanks to Jeff’s leadership, producers jump at the opportunity to make Des Moines an early stop for their national Broadway tours. We now operate four venues and program seven series. And with great pride, we serve 70,000 students and educators every year in our continually expanding Education program. 

Throughout this month on Facebook, we’ll share a mix of behind-the-scenes moments as well as some of the bold steps Jeff has taken to transform what is now Des Moines Performing Arts into a world-class performing arts organization.

On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors of Des Moines Performing Arts, we congratulate Jeff on a blockbuster 25 years!

25 Years of Highlights

• Jeff Chelesvig is named General Manager on January 9 and named President & CEO in 2001.
• The pre-Broadway national tour of State Fair premieres at the Des Moines Civic Center. 

• The Applause Series for schools launches in October; 15,000 students and teachers attend the first season.
• The first Broadway subscription series is offered.

The Phantom of the Opera’s record-breaking five-week run puts Des Moines on the Broadway map. More than 98,000 people attend the engagement.

• The national tour of The Music Man premieres at the Civic Center.
• As a member of the newly-formed Independent Presenters Network (IPN), the Civic Center invests in its first Broadway musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring Sutton Foster. The show wins the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical in 2002 and lands on the Civic Center stage during its first national tour. 

Triple Espresso – A Highly Caffeinated Comedy closes as Iowa’s longest-running show. The show’s first run plays 16 months (68 weeks) with more than 88,000 people in attendance.

• Jeff receives The Broadway League’s Samuel J. L’Hommedieu Award in New York for Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management. 

Disney’s The Lion King opens for a six-week run, representing the longest single run to date at the Civic Center. The show attracts more than 113,000 people.

• The national tour of Frost/Nixon premieres at the Civic Center.

• The Wellmark Family Series launches.• Wicked’s five-week run attracts more than 83,000 patrons to the Civic Center.

• The Dance Series launches.

• The national tour of LaCage aux Folles premieres at the Civic Center.

• The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards launches with nine participating schools.

• The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines re-brands and the organization becomes Des Moines Performing Arts.
• Construction begins on Cowles Commons (formerly Nollen Plaza).
• Applause Series attendance surpasses 50,000 student attendees for the first time.

• Cowles Commons opens in June and provides an opportunity to program outdoor events.
The national tour of The Bridges of Madison County premieres at the Civic Center in November.

• The Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards expands to serve schools statewide. Sixty schools are welcomed into the program.

• Triple Espresso – A Highly Caffeinated Comedy celebrates its 750th performance on December 11.

• Jeff Chelesvig welcomes the 10 Millionth Guest to the Civic Center stage during the opening night of Something Rotten!

Hamilton takes the Civic Center stage for a three-week run; Des Moines is the 18th city in the world to present Hamilton.

Dear Evan Hansen breaks the box office record for highest grossing single-week engagement at the Civic Center.
• The Civic Center celebrates its 40th season.
• Jeff Chelesvig becomes President of the Independent Presenter’s Network.

• National Geographic Live! Series launches at the Civic Center.