2021 is here (hooray!) and everyone is breathing a collective sigh of relief. But despite it being a new year, the problems of 2020 haven’t gone away. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (TCT) knows this better than anyone. Last year, the beloved company had to cancel shows, rework classes and completely reimagine the experience of live theatre. But TCT did, and somehow managed to emerge stronger, more creative and more accessible than ever.
Southwest Ohio Parent spoke to producing artistic director Roderick Justice about TCT’s rich history, how they’ve coped with COVID-related challenges, and what the future holds for this beloved troupe.
TCT is a nonprofit; many people may not know that. Tell us how TCT started.
Our mission is to educate, entertain and engage audiences of all ages through professional theatrical productions and arts education programming, and is the core reason TCT has lasted for over a century. Under direction of Helen Schuster Martin in 1919, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati began educational programming for children and families. In 1924, TCT was placed in the hands of The Junior League of Cincinnati to continue the legacy as the nation’s oldest and one of the largest theatres for young audiences.
Today, we are a professional theatre for children, with professional actors, staff and technicians with three divisions: TCT MainStage, TCT on Tour and TCT Academy.
The world has changed so much since you started. But the joy of live theatre is timeless. How does TCT stay true to its roots?
TCT has lasted for over a century because of the incredible benefits storytelling can provide to the developmental growth of a child. The theatrical arts — whether a child is experiencing them as a participant or audience member — provide an array of educational and engaging tools.
One of the best things about TCT is the way in which you reimagine the classics and continue to evolve. How do this year’s MainStage shows reflect that?
TCT takes great pride in the way we build our season and provide something for everyone. Whether you like classic fairytales, book adaptations, originals or stories rooted in history, our seasons — especially our current season — truly have something everyone can enjoy.
2020 may be over, but the challenges continue. What are some of the ways TCT has pivoted during this tumultuous time?
We pivoted early on to ensure our mission was in focus by providing digital content as well as limited live performances. To accomplish this, we assembled a team of incredible wisdom, creativity and support. Our COVID ad hoc committee consisted of staff, board members and industry professionals from healthcare and human resources to ensure our plan to keep our mission alive through a pandemic was safe. In the theatre, it’s safety first!
Looking ahead to TCT Academy’s spring classes — and after that, summer camps — what sort of things are you doing to ensure kids can enjoy a safe experience?
Our COVID ad hoc committee continues to guide us with plans for keeping not only the children we serve safe, but also our staff and their families safe. In addition to following all CDC and government guidelines and increased personal protective equipment (PPE), we are ensuring all children have access to theatre by continuing to make offerings virtual — including private lessons!
To learn more about The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, visit thechildrenstheatre.com.