In 1934, Dr. Clive McAllister, president of the Old Fort Players (now the Civic Theatre), appointed a committee to create a junior or children’s theater branch of the organization. The committee established the philosophy that the new “Children’s Theatre” would develop poise, better diction, and self-esteem for children through dramatic instruction. They would give at least one play a year, and awaken enthusiasm in children for beauty in art and integrity in dramatic literature.
The first class began with an enrollment of a whopping 40 students, each of which paid just $1.00 for 8 classes! The first production “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” was performed at the Majestic Theatre in Fort Wayne and had a cast of 75 young people. Tickets were only 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.
In 1954, the Majestic Theatre was deemed unsafe for children by the fire department and so the Children’s Theatre spent the next 10 years at various locations in the city. By the time it rejoined the Civic Theatre at the Old Palace Theatre, it had a new name, the “Fort Wayne Youtheatre”. In 1973, both organizations moved to their current home in the Arts United Center on E. Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne. The Youtheatre became autonomous in 1984.
In 1978, Broadway star Harvey Cocks became the director of Youtheatre. He is currently the Artist in Residence, and after 35 years he still enjoys working with young actors and actresses! He was joined by Leslie Hormann, who took over as Executive Director in 2010.
At 80 years, the Fort Wayne Youtheatre is one of the oldest children’s theaters in the nation!