History of CTW
CTW's first show
A Christmas Carol – 1975
On Saturday, December 6, 1975 CTW presented it's first performance: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The two full length performances, at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM were sellouts at $1.00 per seat - and a new era for Theatre in Winnetka was born - with children not only acting but helping to direct, stage manage, paint sets, design and make costumes, work the lights and sound, etc. in Adult,
rather than Children's plays.
Children's Theatre of Winnetka was the culmination of the dreams of two Winnetka women who envisioned Acting in the same light as other activities for Children such as baseball, football, hockey and basketball. A place where Children could strive to be the best, and in doing so, entertain not only their parents but friends as well - with an admission charge.
It all started the previous summer of when Barbara Weldon and Lu Sunkel talked with Tom Fritts, then the executive director of the Winnetka Community House, about starting a not-for-profit children's theatre under the auspices of the Community House. Tom was not only supportive but enthusiastic about the idea, and that was that!
A volunteer "working board of directors" was formed to insure continuity, with all founding members working on the show. This board decided to do two shows each year. Their vision: to teach and involve children in all aspects of a production - not just the acting, singing, and dancing. And, in the true meaning of "Children's" theatre, the children themselves, under adult supervision, would stage manage, run the lights & sound, procure and handle props, usher, sell tickets, paint the scenery, help with makeup and, after the last performance but before the cast party, strike the sets.
Children's Theatre of Winnetka became so popular, auditions and crew signups had to be limited to students, grades 4 thru 8, in public and private schools in New Trier Township only.
My Fair Lady – 2011
Over the past 35 years CTW productions have ranged from classic fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin, to classics like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Hobbitt, and eventually to Broadway-type musicals like Bye Bye Birdie, The Music Man, Annie, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and Oklahoma.
Peter Pan – 1994
The 1994 production of the musical Peter Pan was another step forward: it was decided to actually "fly" Peter, Wendy and her brothers - using the same company, FOY, that did the Mary Martin version on Broadway. Another bold move, in 2005, was the first children's production in the U.S. of Disney's Beauty and the Beast – complete with magical costumes, fog, effects and excitement.
Over the years, one of CTW's greatest sources of pride has been the "alums" - many go on to shine in acting, singing, dancing, and tech at New Trier, college and, yes, BROADWAY and HOLLYWOOD. Many come back in their high school years to help teach dance steps and stage musical numbers for us.
All of this makes us feel as though we have succeeded, not only in teaching and involving children, but also instilling a lifelong interest in, and love of, Theatre.