Plays for children have been presented regularly in Cedar Rapids since 1935; originally under the auspices of the Junior League of Cedar Rapids and eventually under the direction of the Children’s Theatre of Cedar Rapids, Inc.
From 1935 to 1941, the Junior League trouped plays to the elementary schools. During the war years, trouping became economically impossible and the plays were performed in the Paramount Theatre.
From 1942-1946 the League sponsored the Rufus Rose Marionettes, a professional traveling company, instead of presenting its own play. After the war, because of the increased audience and the lack of a proper place to hold the plays, and the feeling that children’s theatre was important to Cedar Rapids and therefore should become a community sponsored function, Mrs. Richard Morgan and Mrs. John Carey, members of the Junior League, began to work on the formation of a community children’s theatre.
Consultants and experts in the area cautioned that a childrens’ theatre could only succeed if the community supported the project. They said, “take stock of the community, sell the program well, lay a groundwork and then proceed to the actual work of producing”. In the summer of 1950, the work actually began.
It is important to note that from the very inception of the CTCR, Inc., one of the basic aims was to establish creative dramatic classes, with the eventual possibility of some of the plays on the series being done by the children in the classes. Creative dramatics and dance classes were sponsored by the CTCR, Inc., for several years, but later discontinued.
The first community organization approached about a children’s theatre was the school boards and then progressively representatives from all major community organizations met with Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Carey. The aims and purposes of the proposed children’s theatre were explained to these representatives and it also was announced that the Junior League had voted to underwrite the project for two years after which it must stand alone.
A brochure outlining the proposed program was compiled and sent to groups throughout the community and a public organizational workshop about children’s theatre was led by Isabel Burger, a professional in the field, in the summer of 1951. This workshop marked the end of the preliminary steps in organization and pointed the way towards the actual formation of a childrens’ theatre. Community support and interest had been aroused, and the community had been given a chance to discover from a professional what a children’s theatre was all about. It was time for the incorporation.
The CTCR, Inc., since that first year has grown and changed as the needs of its community’s children have changed. However, increased budgets, or by-laws changes, or changing board members, do not hide the fact that one of the basic aims as set down by the founders: “to present educational and entertaining programs for children in the field of drama and the interpretive arts with the purpose of raising the standards of such program to the highest level” remains our primary goal today and is what the Children’s Theare of Cedar Rapids, Inc., is really all about.
References: “A History and Evaluation of the CTCR” by Patsy Herget Latshaw (1951-1957)
For years succeeding, refer to the annual reports and minutes which are available from the Recording Secretary’s permanent file.