The mission of Northwest Children’s Theater and School is to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of young audiences. NWCT produces four Mainstage shows per year and administers one of the largest theater schools on the west coast.
NWCT was founded in 1993 by three visionary leaders who saw a need for more arts and educational programming for youth in the Portland area. From humble beginnings lead by dedicated volunteers, NWCT began its first season by offering classes to a handful of students, and producing their first show, Winnie-the-Pooh. According to NWCT Founder and Managing Director, Judy Kafoury, “We started with a desk, a phone, and $6000 in the bank. By the end of the year, the company had grossed over $275,000. We knew we were here to stay.”
By the end of that first year, it was clear that NWCT’s innovative youth arts programming was something Portland wanted and needed, and NWCT continued to expand to meet the needs of the community. More families came to plays, and more children took classes. As patronage increased so did programming; the company began scheduling weekday matinees for student field trips and offering theater classes in area schools. NWCT’s artistic quality was recognized with numerous awards, and quickly became one of Portland’s most respected and beloved arts institutions for children.
Because NWCT’s artistic model included casting children in Mainstage shows, the company attracted huge interest from children with talents for acting, dancing and singing. NWCT started special audition-only classes for these young performing artists, and another level of programming took flight. The first of these was Kid’s Company NW. Recent years have seen the development of Interns NW, STUDIO NW, and Studio JR! Today, these programs comprise NWCT’s Second Stage, providing professional training and performance opportunities to advanced theater students. Many of the region’s most talented youth performers are alums of NWCT Second Stage programs, and the theater has become a second home to thousands of young performers.
It’s not just kids who have found their place on the NWCT stage. NWCT has become a home and a haven to adult theater artists as well, attracting some of Portland’s most celebrated in the field. From the very beginning, the city’s top actors, designers, teachers and directors have plied their craft at NWCT. In 2006, Artistic Director Sarah Jane Hardy began a concerted effort to create new works for the stage, bringing together the most dynamic creative team the company had ever assembled. The results are exciting, award-winning new titles created specifically for Portland audiences, brought to life by over 200 professional theater artists each season.
To date, Northwest Children’s Theater and School has provided high-quality theater arts and education experiences to over one million children, families and students. The company continues to grow and change to meet the needs of the communities it serves, and a long-term lease on its historic home further ensures NWCT’s place in the city. Unprecedented regional awards and national recognition are a testament to leadership dedicated to pursuing the highest artistic and educational standards in the company’s history. The mission, however, remains the same: to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of young audiences. NWCT is not just about plays, or classes. It’s about the next generation of creative thinkers. It’s about future teachers, civic leaders, artists, professionals, craftspeople, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, parents and arts patrons. It’s about preserving Portland’s arts legacy. This future is the driving force behind NWCT’s mission; it is the heart and soul of the company that will keep NWCT thriving for the next twenty years and beyond.