Over the past 75 years, Lexington Children’s Theatre has grown from a volunteer organization to a fully professional children’s theatre that serves more than 130,000 young people every year across the state of Kentucky and beyond.
That means Lexington Children’s Theatre has provided arts experiences for more than 1 million Kentucky children.
The 75th anniversary’s slogan is Generations of Imagination, which speaks to the thousands of children, families and artists touched by the organization.
Each person, whether a patron, student, volunteer or staff member, has contributed to the artistry in the organization.
With every production, workshop or class, Lexington Children’s Theatre continues to grow.
“I like to think of all of the young people that have passed through these doors over the years,” said Larry Snipes, producing director who has been with LCT for 34 years.
“I am constantly amazed at the number of people I run into that remember going to a show or taking a class at LCT.”
Three generations have passed through Lexington Children’s Theatres doors since its conception, and this year welcomes its fourth generation of children.
“We are a place where young people, families and artists find a forever home,” said Lesley Farmer, managing director of Lexington Children’s Theatre. “We are a family that is constantly growing.”
Staff members marvel as children develop into creative adults through the LCT program.
“We are a theatre where young people grow up,” said Anne Meacham, LCT’s Production Stage Manager and Company Manager.
“When I started as an intern for LCT, I stage managed ‘The Adventures of Madeline.’ In the play, there are 11 little puppies. The puppies were played by 9 and 10-year-olds.
This year, the youngest crop of puppies is heading off to college.”
Artistic Director Vivian Snipes has shepherded countless young people through the theatre along with her husband Larry.
“The students Larry and I taught when we first arrived are now bringing their children to participate in the programming,” she said.
“It is heartwarming to learn how important their involvement was to their development, and how they integrate those experiences into their daily lives whether in theatre or other professions. And that they feel it is vital their children have the opportunity to experience similar opportunities.”
What started as women volunteering in the late 1930s has turned into a professional non-profit theatre company that is one of the most prestigious theatre organizations in the country.
In 2012, Larry, Vivian, and Lexington Children’s Theatre received the Orlin Corey Medallion for their contributions to children’s theatre. This is the highest honor awarded from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.
Past recipients include renowned author Dr. Seuss and Julie Taymor, Broadway director and world theatre artist.
When Larry and Vivian celebrated their 25th anniversary at Lexington Children’s Theatre nearly a decade ago, the city of Lexington temporarily renamed Algonquin – the street next to the theatre – to Snipes Way in honor of the couple’s contributions to the community.
Lexington Children’s Theatre’s programs serve thousands of young people and families across the Commonwealth. Annually, LCT’s production program offers more than 350 performances at schools, libraries, performing arts centers and in LCT’s home theatre.
Fully staged productions include a combination of professional shows as well as Discovery Shows, which are designed to allow young actors and adults from the community to experience professional level productions.
LCT’s education department offers afterschool programming, both at LCT and at many schools around the area through the Theatre Explorers program.
Each summer, LCT offers more than 60 performance workshops and day camps at LCT and at area satellite locations.
Additionally, the education department offers two Theatre-In-Education programs, one on bullying and one on recycling that provide schools with an interactive performance and hands-on workshops.
Last season LCT provided free programming to more than 13,000 young people through scholarships and fee waivers.
“Our styles over the past 75 years are as varied as the shows that we do,” Vivian Snipes said. “We are driven by the scripts. We honor the playwrights, and we strive to be true to the text and unique in presentation.
“As we look into the 75th season, we look at all of the contributing artistry from the people who came before us and helped us get to where we are now.”
So the 75th season has become a celebration of the generations of children who have created the high regard in which the theatre is held across the state and beyond.
Said Farmer: “Next season’s tagline, Generations of Imagination, isn’t only about the generations of the past or that we have three generations on staff – it’s about looking toward the next 75 years and continuing to provide professional artistry to the future generations of Lexington.”