Take a trip with us down memory lane.
NCT’s history begins with the Nashville chapter of the Junior League, established to empower women through leadership training and volunteer service. We owe our 90+ year legacy to these hardworking visionaries.
The Nashville Junior League Children’s Theatre performed “Aladdin’s and his Wonderful Lamp” for groups of local schoolchildren, starring 27 volunteer actresses. The show was an instant hit, selling out several performances.
NCT formally separated from the Junior League and began producing plays as Nashville Children’s Theatre. For the next two decades, our company would bounce from stage to stage around Nashville. Landmarks including the Belcourt Theatre and Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities were a few of our gracious hosts.
Our 1942-43 season was the only year in our history that NCT produced no shows, due to the impact of the second World War. Our actors took the stage again in 1943, gradually rebuilding our momentum season by season.
Longtime volunteer set designer, costume maker, board member and former board chair Ann Stalhman Hill led the charge to create NCT’s permanent home. She organized like-minded folks to petition legislatures, talk with neighborhood families, and fundraise for a new theatre. In 1959, Nashville’s Board of Park Commissioners approved a quarter-million dollars to construct the Hill Theatre. NCT was the first children’s theatre in the U.S. to be built with public funds.
NCT opened the doors to its permanent—and current—home. Our beloved Hill Theatre stands in honor of Anne Stahlman Hill, beside the Howard School building and Lindsley Hall (formerly Nashville’s Children’s Museum).
As schools began to desegregate across the South in the early 1970s, NCT began offering performances during school hours to create a shared space for children to explore what they had in common. Almost overnight, NCT became a top field trip destination for Nashville’s public schools—we were (and still are!) honored to nurture creativity and empathy in more kids from more diverse backgrounds.
Scot Copeland took the reins as NCT’s first official Artistic Director in the mid-80s, kicking our performances up a notch and boosting our professional reputation in the region. We also hired our first professional set and costume designers. Until the 1980s, all sets and costumes were designed and created by community volunteers.
By the eighties, our now-professional NCT theatre company was ready to evolve again in order to meet the changing needs of our family audiences. Our leadership and actors brought more ambitious programming to the NCT community with shows like Diary of Anne Frank, The Miracle Worker, and others.
NCT welcomed Ernie Nolan as our Executive Artistic Director in 2017, bringing fresh energy to our already renowned productions. Ernie reinvigorated our commitment to cutting-edge theatre with the NCT Hatchery, an innovative incubator for new work.
We were over the moon to debut the NCT Snuggery in 2018, our immersive and interactive performance series created especially for children ages 0-5. Our first Snuggery show? Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, naturally.
As the Coronavirus pandemic upended life as we know it, young people’s access to imaginative, transformative cultural experiences became more vital than ever. Our nimble staff and partners made quick pivots to continue bringing quality theatre to young audiences. Virtual camps and online performances brought NCT to Nashville’s youth in creative, innovative ways.
After a 16-month break from in-person performances, we couldn’t wait to perform Charlotte’s Web in an outdoor, site-specific production. It was so good to see our audiences face to face!
What’s new—and what’s next—at NCT? Follow us as we continue to bring transformative theatre experiences to young people in new and creative ways!