The Junior League of Cedar Rapids presented plays in local elementary schools from 1935 to 1941. Touring the schools was not economically possible during the war years, and the plays were presented at the Paramount Theatre.
The Early Days
Committed to children’s theatre programming, the Junior League sponsored the Rufus Rose Marionettes, a professional traveling company, instead of presenting its own plays, in the mid-1940s. As their audience increased, it became difficult to secure performance space. Members of the Junior League saw the importance of children’s theatre to Cedar Rapids and felt the audience would be best served by a community-sponsored organization. Mrs. Richard Morgan and Mrs. John Carey, members of the Junior League, began work on this vision.
Consultants encouraged early organizers to “take stock of the community, sell the program well, lay a groundwork, and then proceed to the actual work of producing.” They advised community involvement and investment would be essential to the success of a sustainable children’s theatre. In the summer of 1950, the founders of Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre began forming the organization that has since become an essential part of the cultural fabric of Cedar Rapids.
Children’s theatre comes to life
Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Carey first approached the school boards and other major community organizations with their vision for interactive children’s theatre programming. They explained Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre’s short-term objective was to establish creative dramatic classes with the hope some plays in the series would eventually be produced by the students. Drama and dance classes were sponsored by Playtime Poppy during this time period. (This early focus on education and achievement remains evident in our current Summer Theatre Adventure.)
A brochure outlining the proposed program was circulated throughout the community. A public organizational workshop was held in the summer of 1951 featuring Isabel Burger, an expert on the creation and development of children’s theatre groups. With community support and interest aroused, Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre was incorporated. The Junior League pledged to underwrite the project for two years.
A rich and continued tradition
Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre has evolved since its founding, but its mission remains unchanged: “Playtime Poppy Children’s Theatre entertains, educates and engages our community to inspire a lifetime love of theatre for all.”
– from A History and Evaluation of the Children’s Theatre of Cedar Rapids, Inc. (1951-1957) by Patsy Herget Latshaw