Named for Ernest E. Williams the theatre was formally opened at a gala dedication on Friday, April 16, 1993 at which the actress Claire Bloom presented her one-woman show, "Then Let Women Know: A Portrait of the Women of Shakespeare." The theatre was made possible by a gift of three million dollars from the Foellinger Foundation in 1987, $1.1 million from the Academic Facility Fee Fund and gifts from the Knight Foundation and the English-Bonter-Mitchell Trust. It was designed by Walter Scholer and Assoicates and James Architects and Engineers. Weigand Construction was the general contractor. The structure is 26,600 square feet and seats 299. Construction began on May 28, 1991, and the building was completed on October 26, 1992. The original cost of the building was $4,650,000.