The History of San Diego Junior Theatre
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Video from San Diego Junior Theatres 60th Anniversary.
San Diego Junior Theatre originally began as a community program by San Diegos Old Globe Theatre. Today, San Diego Junior Theatre operates as an independent, nonprofit organization for the benefit of children throughout San Diego County, and is the oldest continuing childrens theatre program in the country its productions have entertained well over a million theatregoers since its beginning in 1948! Now offering classes at Balboa Parks historic Casa del Prado and in the village of La Jolla at the La Jolla YMCA Firehouse, San Diego Junior Theatre is committed to providing engaging, innovative, high-quality theatre education and productions for children of all cultural heritages, ages, abilities and levels of interest.
San Diego Junior Theatre recently celebrated its 60th Anniversary Season with renewed dedication to a tradition of educating, entertaining and enriching the lives of children throughout San Diego. Turning 60 marked a milestone in a history rich with talented performers and performances, dedicated teachers and tireless supporters whose strength of purpose not only assured the theatres endurance, but its success.
The Old Globe Junior Theatre Wings production
of The Rose and the Ring, 1952, featured
a young Dennis Hopper.
In 1948, the San Diego Junior Theatre Wing of the Old Globe Theatre was established at the suggestion of Craig Noel, the resident director. With instructors and facilities provided under the Old Globes stewardship, Irma Fraser McPherson directed a group of students, ages eight to 18, in what became the first of many Junior Theatre productions from the hilarious to the heart-breaking to the simply show-stopping. One of the first performances was The Rose and the Ring, featuring the Old Globes Dennis Hopper.
As Junior Theatre continued to flourish, it moved to Balboa Parks old Food and Beverage building for its new rehearsal space, with shows staged in the Recital Hall and the Puppet Theatre. By 1951, the San Diego Park and Recreation Department took over sponsorship of the junior theatre program, and two years later the Civic Conservatory of Theatre Arts for Youth (produced by the San Diego Junior Theatre) was incorporated.
From 1951 to 1971, San Diego Junior Theatre shared what is now the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre stage, located in the Palisades Building on the south side of Balboa Park.
Alyssa Schechter, John Selby and Jackiee Bianchi in the musical Zombie Prom, 2005.
During the 1971-72 season, San Diego Junior Theatre moved to its current home in the Casa del Prado Theatre. Today it operates as an independent, non-profit organization and is known to be the oldest, continuing childrens theatre program in the country.
While Junior Theatres alumni include celebrities such as Victor Buono (Academy Award nominee, 1963 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Dennis Hopper (Academy Award nominee, 1969 Easy Rider, 1987 Hoosiers), Raquel Welch (Golden Globe winner, 1975 The Three Musketeers), Annette Bening (Academy Award nominee, 1990 The Grifters, 1999 American Beauty, Golden Globe winner, 2005 Being Julia), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Tony Award winner, 1999 Kiss Me Kate) and Gore Verbinski (Film Director, Mousehunt, The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean movies), Christian Hoff (Tony Award Winner, 2006 Jersey Boys), the programs dedication to providing quality education and building self-esteem has helped produce capable citizens in all fields of endeavor.
Thats why San Diego Junior Theatres education and community outreach programs are so important today. As one of the nations most comprehensive theater education programs for children, Junior Theatre offers hundreds of classes and camps. With the help of its growing corporate sponsorship program, education and entertainment services are offered to school and community groups in Balboa Park, Chula Vista, La Jolla, and throughout San Diego County, all with the aim of introducing the magic of theatre to children for generations to come!