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The mission of Theatre at the Center, Inc. is to bring to The Center for Visual and Performing Arts disciplines of the performing arts that are at once appealing, educational, and accessible to the entire community.
About Theatre at the Center
Theatre at the Center (TATC) is the resident theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts. Its 5 Mainstage productions attract an audience of over 50,000 annually. TATC operates on an Actors Equity contract and regularly employs the finest performers in the greater Chicago area for its year-round seasons of classic American musicals, new plays and comedies. Other programming includes 4 Theatre for Young Audiences productions annually, theatre classes for young people and special events, including music, comedy and limited run theatrical works. A not for profit organization, TATC is sustained by grants (including the Indiana Arts Commission), individual donations and major support from the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana.
In 1991, two years following the June 1989 dedication of The Center for the Visual and Performing Arts at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Theatre at the Center launched with a premiere season guided by the leadership of Broadway veteran Gary Giocomo.
The Center for the Visual and Performing Arts was constructed from the dream and generous spirit of Northwest Indiana philanthropist Donald S. Powers, whose vision and entrepreneur spirit also built and developed Community Hospital and Community Healthcare System, the Briar Ridge subdivision, the Community Veterans Memorial in Munster and Purdue University Calumet.
Initially established in 1990, Theatre at the Center was founded by Martin Kappel as a stage space boasting more than 400 seats to offer audiences a variety of live theater, music, comedy and entertainment. By February 2008, John Mybeck, producer and long-time guiding administrator for Theatre at the Center and the Center for Visual and Performing Arts until his passing the following year in January 2009, was able to proudly congratulate Theatre at the Center’s 500,000th audience patron during a stage ceremony amidst audience applause.
The 1991 debut season showcased three productions, Noises Off, Chapter Two and Carnival, as did the following next two years of show offerings, with Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, I’m Not Rappaport and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1992 and Hello, Dolly!, Oklahoma and Mame in 1993. By 1994, the season grew to four shows, with I Do! I Do!, The Music Man, Gypsy and South Pacific.
Beginning in 1992, the Theatre at the Center stage also began a tradition which continues today, welcoming celebrity headliners to perform for audiences at the Munster venue. In 1992, actor Jonathan Frid, who played TV vampire Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows” performed his one-man show Fools and Fiends. In 1994, Maxene Andrews of the famed Andrews Sisters performed, as did Bill Marx, son of Harpo Marx, who performed on piano in 1995 in a show called From Harpo with Love. Comedienne Paula Poundstone, The Dixie Chicks, The Chieftains and political satirist Mark Russell have all been featured on the Theatre at the Center stage.
It was also Artistic Director Giocomo’s idea to invite legendary Hollywood film and television personalities for featured roles in the theater’s mainstage season equity productions, beginning in 1997 when Academy Award winning actress Margaret O’Brien starred in Arsenic and Old Lace. In 1998, he directed Lee Meriwether in Barefoot in the Park and Nanette Fabray in On Golden Pond. With Giocomo’s departure in 1998, Michael Weber was named Theatre at the Center’s artistic director, and in 1999, his first season included Karen Valentine as the lead in Steel Magnolias.
In 2002, the Theatre for Young Audiences programming became a popular addition to each season’s offerings. After Weber concluded his time as artistic director in 2004, a new chapter began with William Pullinsi assuming the title and responsibilities for the next decade, which included increased accolades and recognition such as important nods with nominations from the Chicagoland Joseph Jefferson Committee.
John Mybeck, producer and administrator at Theatre at the Center, congratulates audience member Mary Klassen of Hammond for being the 500,000th patron to the venue in February 2008. Klassen was honored with a signed poster of the running production at the time, the musical "La Cage aux Folles" and a bouquet of flowers presented by Artistic Director William Pullinsi. (Photo by Kyle Telechan)
By the time Linda Fortunato began her duties as Theatre at the Center Artistic director in January 2016, more than 45 Jeff Award nominations were already part of the Theatre at the Center’s stage history. Two of Theatre at the Center’s Jeff Award wins include Linda Fortunato for choreographing 42nd Street and Cory Goodrich for Ring of Fire in addition to an Honorary Award for William Pullinsi for Lifetime Achievement.
Theatre at the Center has also moved and remounted shows from the Munster stage to Chicago, including the 2014 hit Ring of Fire, which found further audiences at Mercury Theater, as did Over the River in 2003. Theatre at the Center is also a theater of “firsts.” Women on the Verge in September 2014 was the first professional production post-Broadway. In fact, the 2014 TATC Season was comprised of all Chicago and/or World Premieres with The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical, Ring of Fire, Women on the Verge, A Christmas Memory and Miracle on South Division Street all earning audience ovations. Other Chicago premieres at TACT include Making God Laugh, The Tin Woman, What a Glorious Feeling, Another Night Before Christmas, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Fox on the Fairway and The Jolson Story. Knute Rockne – All American in 2008 was Theatre at the Center’s first World Premiere production.
A not-for-profit organization, Theatre at the Center is sustained by grants, including the Indiana Arts Commission, individual donations and major support from the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana. Approximately 60,000 people attend the Mainstage shows, Special Events and Theatre for Young Audiences performances.
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