History of the Children’s Theatre
Generations of area children have had their first thrilling contact with live theatre through the Packy Plays, as they are commonly known, referring to the RCTs mascot. Packy, the elephant child first appeared in 1947 to instruct children in theatre courtesy. Except for the 1950-51 season, when he was briefly replaced by a penguin, Packy and the RCT have been inseparable ever since. Year after year, youngsters eagerly anticipate his on-stage introductions to each performance.
In the beginning, the Racine Children’s Theatre was established by the Woman’s Club in collaboration with AAUW, the Library Board, the Child Conservation League, the Junior League, and the drama departments of Horlick and Washington Park High Schools. All performances for the first eight seasons took place at the Woman’s Club. The slate for the initial 1933-34 season was Snow White, Afternoon of Morgin, The Silver Thread (marionettes), The Dragon and Puss in Boots (movie). There were two performances of each production. The price for the five-part series was $.50, or 15 cents for a single admission.
History of the Racine Theatre Guild
- 1938 – The Racine Theatre Guild is founded by 26 people and $13.
- 1939 – The Guild has 100 members, presenting 3 full-length dramas each season at the Woman’s Club.
- 1942 – RTG presents seasons of 5 plays at the Main Street Theatre. Because movies are shown in the theatre on weekends, plays are performed on Monday through Thursday nights. Dress rehearsals begin the week before, running from 11 p.m., after the movies, to about 4:30 am.
- 1956 – With the purchase of a building at High and Erie Streets, RTG becomes the first community theatre in Wisconsin to own its own building.
- 1961 – A professional director is hired to direct some of the plays.
- 1965 – Anita Grannis is hired as full-time managing director.
- 1969 – Norman McPhee is hired as managing/artistic director.
- 1976 – RTG moves into its own newly built theatre on Northwestern Avenue, with a thrust stage and auditorium seating 405.
- 1979 – RTG represents the US with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at international theatre festivals in Austria and England.
- 1985 – RTG hosts the Festival of American Community Theatres.
- 1987 – The RTG production of “Seascape” travels to Belgium and the Netherlands to represent the US in international festivals.
- 1988 – The season grows to 8 plays: 5 regular-season shows and 3 bonus shows.
- 1989 – The Guild invites a troupe from Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR to perform in Racine, beginning an ongoing cultural exchange which takes the RTG to the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991.
- 1990 – An associate director/audience developer is hired to direct some plays and expand educational outreach. Modi Nahke Theatre Company from Tbilisi returns to Racine.
- 1994 – RTG hosts a judged, competitive international theatre festival with productions from 11 countries and receives the State of Wisconsin Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts.
- 1999 – RTG participates in an international competition in Yakumo Village, Japan, and wins directing and acting awards for “Androcles and the Lion”. RTG merges with the Racine Children’s Theatre (RCT) and assumes its management, presenting 4 children’s plays annually.
- 2001 – Norman McPhee retires after 32 years at RTG’s helm. Douglas Instenes becomes managing and artistic director. Harbor Fest initiates Jean’s Jazz Series of concerts held at and benefiting the Guild.
- 2003 – Jr. Production Company becomes Student Performing Arts Kompany (SPArK), a touring troupe of teen actors performing issue-oriented plays for elementary schools.
- 2004 – Lobby, offices and auditorium–with all new seating– are completely remodeled. A three-year capital campaign (2000-2003) has also created an endowment and funded replacement of roof, HVAC, exterior building surface and sound system. RTG begins offering theatre trips to New York and Chicago.
- 2005 – “Visiting Mr. Green” cast and crew, under Norm McPhee’s direction, travel to Ireland for Dundalk International Maytime Festival. Comedy Tonight series begins with 2 performances, goes to 3 the next year and to 4 the year following.
- 2007-2008 – RCT celebrates its 75th season with a summer play and birthday party for Packy, the Elephant mascot. RTG celebrates 70 seasons with historic displays, giveaways and promotions.
- 2011 – RTG greatly expands its education program, offering three terms (fall, winter and summer) of theatre classes for adults and kids.
- 2012-2013 – RTG celebrates its diamond jubilee-season 75- with a float in Racine’s 4th of July parade, a fall party for supporters, giveaways and more. Racine Children’s Theatre presents its 80th season of plays and musicals.