8 Wonders of Kansas customs

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Customs

Eating dinner prior to watching community theater, Topeka

Address: 3028 S.W. 8th, Topeka, KS 66604
Phone: 785.357.5211
Website: www.topekacivictheatre.com

Custom: Eating dinner before theatre!

Where to do this custom: Topeka Civic Theatre has the nation's oldest, continuously running community dinner theatre!

Founded in 1936, Topeka Civic Theatre is the oldest, continuously, running community dinner theatre in the country. In July of 1999, Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy completed construction of a new home in the former Gage Elementary School. The school was built around 1929 and is rich in architecture and design. The 2009 season marks the 74th season.

TCTA also has an incredible youth academy, training young and old actors, and growing a new crop of artists to expand the arts in northeast Kansas. The Stepping Stones Curriculum breaks down acting technique into a group of skills including Characterization, Scene Study, and Improvisation. Summer theatre camps round out the year in an old elementary school bursting with budding thespians.

In 2001, Theatre USA published a booklet with the cooperation of the American Association of Community Theatres and the City of Detroit Department of Recreation. Community theatres in America were researched through a survey and conclusions were put in a book from those that responded. The book, Millennium Theatres, Discovering Community Theatre's Future by Exploring its Past, provided a wealth of information.

Profiles were collected from more than 180 theatres. Eighty-seven were fifty years or older. The oldest is Footlight club/Eliot Hall in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. It's 128 years old and was founded in 1877. Sixty are as old or older than the Topeka Civic Theatre. However, there is no documentation that shows that any of these community theatres double as a dinner theatre for as long and as continuous as the Topeka Civic Theatre. In fact, it is more common for dinner theatres to be professional theatres than community theatres.

Enjoy new hit comedies, cutting-edge dramas, and beloved Broadway musicals with year-round dinner and non-dinner shows. To get tickets, click here or call 785.357.5211.

Since 1936, our theatre has been producing heart-warming, toe-tapping, song-humming shows. Our shows range from comedies to dramas to musicals to cutting-edge new works. Children perform for children, and adults provide family entertainment in Theatre for Young Audiences. Readers theatre brings back the radio plays of the 30s, 40s and 50s. Comedy improv is performed at its best by young adults, teens, and senior citizens.

Also, year round (at least one a month) public tours and educational programming take place. The tours are called Stage Door Sneak Peek. It's a one-hour presentation. People are asked to sign up in advance or these tours can be scheduled upon request. Sometime the groups even get to see a little bit of a rehearsal, see the backstage, or walk onstage.

In 1975, Managing Director Don Bachmann's production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won the state community theatre festival and advanced to the regional in Omaha. In 1979, Bachmann's production of The Good Doctor, starring Charley Oldfather, went all the way to National, won it, and represented the United States at an international amateur theatre festival the following spring in Dundalk, Ireland. In 1981, P.K. Worley's production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris won the state festival and was performed at the regional in Topeka. Terrance McKerrs took two productions to nationals, I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road in 1985, which won third place, and The Taffetas in 1991, which won second place, while McKerrs won the "Best Director" award.

Source: Carole Ries