Now that we’ve opened our world premiere of the Theatre for Young Audiences edit of Tuck Everlasting, we reflect on one of the very things that makes Nashville Children’s Theatre unique. We are the oldest continually operating professional theatre for young audiences in the United States. When NCT was formed by the Junior League of Nashville in 1931, WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry had only been broadcasting on radio for six years. The Parthenon was in the process of being rebuilt in Centennial Park, and Warner Parks turned four years old.
When NCT began, we didn’t have a home theater and so we found stages at the Belcourt Theatre as well as Lindsley Hall – which was built in 1853 and has been used as a Union hospital during the Civil War before it became the Nashville Children’s Museum in 1945. In the 1950’s, the theatre fundraised to build the theatre we use today. And in the 1960’s, in the wake of Nashville’s desegregation of schools, NCT was asked to consider programming during school hours so all children could have a shared space to explore what they had in common. Our weekday performances continue to this day.
We renovated the theatre again in 2007 to add the lobby, classrooms and some offices upstairs, but in most ways the theatre we sit in today is the theatre generations of families have attended. Thinking about the way the past and present intersect in our theatre is very resonant as we think about how the Tuck and Foster families debate about living forever in a world that never stops changing.
Even though our name has the word “children’s” in it, we think it’s important to provide theatre to the whole family. That’s why we’ve partnered with Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to teach classes to seniors and we prepare a Grandparent’s Day performance with a Q&A session after a performance of every production. If a grandparent grew up in Nashville, then it is very likely we welcomed them when they were a child, as well as a parent, and now grandparent, which makes bringing their grandchildren here very special.
We are very proud to have a legacy of being not only the oldest, but also the largest theatre in Middle Tennessee, and look forward to serving generations to come.