A Walk THrough CCT's History
The Columbus Junior Theatre of the Arts (CJT) was founded in 1963 by Mrs. Howard (Sis) Bloom to offer classes in theatre and production experience for children throughout central Ohio. With the help of Mrs. Michael Herrel, classes were first taught in a space on West Broad Street and later moved to Trinity Episcopal Church. In 1966, CJT moved to a newly purchased building on Main Street. The first full time Executive Director was then hired in 1967 with help from the Columbus Foundation, the Joseph A. Jeffrey Fund, Junior League, and the Ohio Arts Council.
CJT's first touring company was created in 1970. The company was comprised of adult volunteer performers. This continued until 1983 when the first professional touring company was officially hired. In the same year, CJT partnered with Columbus Public Schools to create The Child Writing Project.
By 1985, classes and week-long summer camps were created which doubled the student enrollment. Additionally, CJT sold their building on Main Street and moved to 504 N. Park Street. However, by 1989 financials were not good, the Executive Director had quit suddenly, and CJT's board voted on whether or not to close the doors.
Thankfully, they decided to keep them open. By the end of 1989, CJT's board hired William Goldsmith as Executive Director who immediately began an extensive expansion of all activities. With a completed 99 seat performance space complete in 504 N. Park Street, CJT introduced the first theatre series in 1990.
By the time CJT celebrated it's 32nd year, in 1995, it contracted its first Education Director, remodeled the lobby and took the summer Pre-Professional Company to perform in Leicester, England, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Avignon Festival in France.
In 1997, with box office records breaking every year, the theater hired a full time Managing Director and moved from the 99 seat space to leasing (and later purchasing) a 170 seat theatre at 512 Park Street where it remains today. In 1998, CJT changed its name to Columbus Children's Theatre (CCT).
CCT's budget exceeded $500,000 in 2000 and the organization was recognized as a "Major Institution in Columbus" by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the Columbus Foundation. Subscriptions to the theatre series increased by over 50% and overall attendance was at 85%. The success allowed CCT to offer its professional touring company actors full benefits including health, dental, vision and 401K. To add to these accomplishments, the year 2000 also saw the commission of CCT's first full musical, The Druid Tree, which was written specifically for the Pre-Professional Company and had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Several other world premieres followed in CCT's subsequent years including Green Gables, Ebenezer, Surviving the Applewhites, Cinderella, A Hip Hop Fairytale and Ugly Duckling, a Hip Hop Dramady.
In 2007, CCT moved its administrative offices off site to 177 E. Naghten Street. The move was required to make room for the city's new baseball stadium for the Columbus Clippers, and the space was shared with Opera Columbus.
The historical Lincoln Theatre on E. Long Street was renovated in 2009. CCT immediately became a resident company and performs at least one show in this 560 seat theatre each season.
In 2012, Opera Columbus moved out of the Naghten Street office space and CCT took over the entire 15,000 square foot facility. With the additional space, the academy expanded rapidly with the addition of after school classes, private lessons, dance classes and the Young Adult Theatrical Academy.
CCT celebrated its 50th year in 2013 with a budget exceeding $1,000,000 and a celebration with family, friends, patrons and distinguished alumni, including Josh Radnor, star of the television series How I Met Your Mother. Research had officially begun to build a new state-of-the -art facility.
Now in its 53rd year, CCT is thriving with new staff positions including Technical, Development, and Business Directors, a Marketing Manager, and an Associate Artistic Director. CCT's Summer Youth Performance Conservatory was internationally recognized for its production of Into the Woods, Jr. which won Outstanding Production, and All Festival Female Performer (Emma Lou Andrews) at the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta Georgia.