Civic Theatre was born in the 1920's when the community theater movement
swept across the country. But Civic Theatre's roots extend far back into
the 19th Century to the days when independent theater companies
performed throughout the Midwest, bringing artistry and entertainment to
people who would otherwise never know the excitement of live theater.
The founder of Evansville Civic Theatre, Miss Frances Golden, brought to
the new community theater (called Peoples Players in 1925-then changed
to Community Players) all of her previous experience as the daughter of
a famous theatrical family. In addition, as artistic director for 17
years, Miss Golden gave to Evansville Civic Theatre a stability and
sense of purpose that has shaped the character of community theater in
Evansville for nearly 90 years.
From its humble
beginnings at the Old Central High School auditorium, Evansville Civic
Theatre has had many homes -- Memorial Coliseum, Bosse High School, the
Rose Room of the McCurdy Hotel, the Elks Ballroom, and the Evansville
Museum of Arts and Sciences when the name was changed to Evansville
Civic Theatre in 1956. In 1974, Evansville Civic Theatre acquired it's
own home, the former Columbia Movie Theater at 717 N. Fulton Avenue,
built in 1910. Here, for almost an entire century, innumerable hours of
production and performance time are relived every time the curtain is
raised on a new Civic Theatre production. In 1977, the Civic Theatre
Board of Directors hired long-time ECT volunteer Dick Engbers (*) as the
first full-time professional Managing Artistic Director, a position he
held for nearly 30 years until his retirement in October of 2005. Civic
Theatre celebrated its 20th anniversary in the former
Columbia Theater in Sept. 1994, with an exterior restoration as the Art
Deco building appeared in 1939. In August 1996, new theater seating and
a complete refurbishing of the theatre interior was completed.
In the last decade, with
the Managing Artistic Director torch being passed to C. Lynn Kinkade and
Christopher Tyner respectively, Civic Theatre has implemented numerous new projects and programs
reaching more and more audience members. The NEXTWAVE Educational
Program reaches out to children, teens, and adults through classes and
two mainstage shows that have been incorporated into each season. The
Civic Theatre Education Annex in the North Park Shopping Cener has birthed a
new performance space in a flexible Black-Box setting dubbed The
Underground at the Annex, and in 2011 Civic went into a partnership with
Lincoln Amphitheatre for an annual summer presentation.
Civic Theatre Staff
From the Lloyd Expressway:
Coming from the west, exit at Fulton,
stay in the left lane of the exit ramp, turn left onto Fulton and
proceed to the theatre at Fulton and Columbia.
From the east, exit at Fulton
Avenue exit, turn right onto Fulton and proceed to the theatre.
Take a right onto Columbia and a right into the parking lot just past
FOR A MAP TO THE THEATRE
A Tribute to Director
the early 1960s, a young theater bug-bitten kid became involved with
the Evansville Civic Theatre. He was active both onstage and backstage
at ECT and several other theater venue’s in the area for several
years. Having revived the annual summer musical in the mid-sixties,
the ECT Board of Directors asked Dick, who had recently directed an
extremely successful production of Sweet Charity at a coffee
house theatre in Newburgh, if he would direct the 1968 musical.
Honored, he graciously accepted and the rest is-nearly 40 years of
the next 10 years, he acted, directed, and held different positions on
the board of directors as a volunteer. When it became apparent that
the theatre was growing, the day to day operations intensifying, and
the volunteer board of directors unable to keep up with the daily
duties, it was decided in 1977, along with a modest grant from the
Indiana Arts Commission, to take a huge leap and hire a full-time
Administrative Director. In November 1977, after Dick’s years of
directing shows and basically running the theatre operations, the
Board of Directors offered him the position. Through the years, as the
theatre grew, employees were added and duties increased; his title
changed from Administrative Director to Artistic Director to Managing
Director and finally Artistic/Managing Director.
Dick’s direction, the theatre prospered into one of the premier
community theatres in the state of Indiana and the country.
Participating in the state’s community theatre annual competitions for
many years, countless awards for best show, best directing, and
acting, were achieved by Dick and the stalwarts of the theatre. In
1985, the Civic Theatre’s efforts and awards were cumulated with an
invitation to represent the US in the annual Community Theatre
International Competition in Dundalk, Ireland. The award winning
musical Cole received a special award for Best Musical Ensemble
and the Best Director of the competition was awarded to Dick Engbers.
Hundreds upon hundreds of talented community actors have weaved their
magic over the 30+ years Dick was connected with the theatre. Their
love and devotion was evidenced every time they stepped into the
spotlight! His tireless work and love for both ECT and the Evansville
community was heralded by his successes and accomplishments. Dick was
awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash (the highest honor given in the
state of Indiana), the Mayor’s Arts award in 1991, the Jefferson
Award, and a key to the city of Evansville in 2004.
theatre community came together in November 2004 to bestow their
accolades, praise, and gratitude in a dynamic, emotional musical
tribute to Mr. Theatre-a name coined many years ago by Joycelyn
Winnecke, now editor of the Chicago Tribune-Dick Engbers.