There's No Place Like Home

Photography by Liam O’Connell

Fostering an appreciation in the performing arts and helping young performers find their presence on and off the stage, is what The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (TCT ) is about. Children fall in love with musical theatre through TCT MainStage and TCT On Tour traveling productions and have done so for more than 92 years. For those who express a deeper interest in performing, TCT Academy, including theatre classes, camps and the STAR Programs provide a path for their future. 

Now, more than ever, TCT can meet the needs of those who love the arts and seek a way to take part. Their new facility on Red Bank Road expands programing and administrative areas. “We’ve gone from 10,000 square feet of rental space to almost 30,000 square feet of space we can truly call our home,” says Kim Deaton, managing director and CEO.


The Academy 

The new space boasts eight drama, dance and voice studios and the TCT Academy has benefited exponentially because of it. The last
Academy session before the move had 55 children in attendance. In the new space, their first class included almost 270 children. “That’s a 340 percent increase,” says Deaton. She’s quick to add, “We knew the demand was there but we just couldn’t meet it until we had the space. With this space the Academy is able to flourish the way we knew that it would.”  Not only has the new space increased the headcount but the Academy was able to expand in terms of classes offered. In the past, TCT could only offer beginner level classes, but now children can participate at an intermediate and advanced level as well. 

Summer camps offer an introduction to theatre for varying ages. The camps are themed each week and take children on an adventure through musical theatre featuring princesses and pirates, fairies and wizards, heroes and villains both new and familiar. One-week theater camps do not require an audition, however, the STAR Red Bank and STAR Intensive NKU programs do. “Our camps give children a well-rounded experience in theatre,” says Deaton. 

During camp, TCT brings in guest artists who speak to different disciplines that the children may not have considered such as: makeup, hair and wigs, directing, stage combat and scenic design. Roderick Justice, producing artistic director, says, “We look forward to expanding that technical arts component of the Academy in the future.” The Academy plans to expand beyond drama, vocal and dance classes to include specialties such as: costuming, puppetry and technical theater. “We’re even talking about including an audition prep class,” says Deaton and private lessons are offered in the new space as well.

Regarding TCT Academy classes, Deaton says, “We rely on the expertise of our artistic staff to help point parents in the right direction. You’re not going to have all 10-year-olds at the same level. We do make accommodations and steer kids to the appropriate level.”


The STAR Program

TCT has two STAR Programs for children who already demonstrate an interest and talent in the performing arts. These programs are audition-based and aim to help young performers find their path in theatre. Interested children audition with a monologue and a song and are placed according to age and ability by the reviewing panel. 

The STAR Red Bank Program at TCT’s new location takes place for three weeks in June. Selected students will train with leading musical theatre professionals to advance in all areas needed to progress as a performer. The camp culminates with a performance for friends and family in the new, state-of-the-art 152-seat theater at the new facility.

The STAR Intensive NKU Program at the campus of Northern Kentucky University is designed for children ages 9 to 18 to learn from experts and educators in musical theatre for four weeks in the summer. Each year, approximately one dozen students are selected from the NKU program to participate in the STAR Cabaret, which is year-round training and mentoring. These exceptional children get the opportunity to travel to New York, Chicago or LA to perform a showcase for directors, agents and casting experts.

“We really provide a pathway for children interested in the performing arts,” says Deaton. “You can start in one of our classes as early as age three and continue all the way up to age 18.”

Bill Prather’s son Eli has participated in the STAR Program and has even performed in some of the MainStage productions at the Taft Theatre, including the 2016 production of Shrek The Musical JR. “The opportunities afforded Eli have been on a level not comparable to many others,” says Prather, “Beyond those amazing moments are amazing people.”

“We have the added benefit of having a professional theatre company attached to our organization,” says Deaton. “There are plenty of dance studios around town, for example, but not many that have a professional theatre affiliation. Who better to teach drama, vocal, and dance than a theatre company that performs professional musicals at the Taft?”


A Second Performance Space

“We are not leaving the Taft,” says Justice. “We will have smaller series at our new space, but all of our MainStage performances will continue to be downtown at the Taft.” The new space also has rehearsal space that has the footprint of the Taft Theatre, thus creating more flexibility for rehearsal. 

TCT MainStage productions are a vital part of introducing performing arts to children in our community. Cary Wolking, teacher at Summit View Academy remembers one student who did not have the opportunity to attend theatrical productions outside of school.
Wolking says, “With the lights from the stage, I was able to watch her face during the performance. Every possible emotion crossed that sweet face – happiness, anticipation, love. In my 21 years of teaching, I can honestly say I have never seen a field trip have that much of an impact on a child. She will remember this forever, as will I.” 

That’s the kind of impact a live theatrical production can make. Now, in the new space, TCT can bring more of these opportunities to the community. A smaller 152-seat theatre, box office and ticket area means, smaller, more targeted, performances can happen in addition to the MainStage productions at the Taft Theatre. Justice says he looks forward to “More intimate theatrical experiences that appeal to kids of specific ages such as preschool or high school.”

Deaton says they will also kick-off performances for TCT On Tour (formerly ArtReach) in the small theater as well as performances featuring the STAR Cabaret. Presenting Series will bring in performers such as The Frisch Marionettes. Community members can also rent the small theater for events. 

All of the studios and the small theatre are state-of-the-art and Bluetooth capable, with floors built specifically for dancers. “The theater has all new equipment,” says Justice. In addition, the lobby will have a visual art component, with artwork displayed in the gallery area.”


The Patron of the Arts

Understanding the importance of the arts and fostering an appreciation for it starts with exposure as a child. Jamie Mack says, “It really helps my young daughter learn the etiquette of theatre so that we can carry these skills to the Broadway productions.

“If we wait to bring children into the theatre later when they already ‘know how to behave,’ we’ve forgotten the point of musical theater – to enjoy it! “My 18-year-old son and my three-year-old daughter love to attend these performances together. We love to discuss all the things that happen on stage and we tell all of our friends and our preschooler tells her friends about it.”

Life lessons also happen in the camps and classrooms of TCT Academy. “We’re developing performers, but also children as people as well,” says Deaton. “It’s not just about performing arts. If you take our drama classes you’re more likely to be a better public speaker. Your self-confidence will also increase. At The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, we’re developing children as whole human beings.” 

The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is located at 4015 Red Bank Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information, call 513.569.8080, email or visit