How We Started
Victor and June Podagrosi founded Child's Play while Victor was teaching theatre at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. Asked to stage a performance of children's writings for a Young Author's awards ceremony, Victor was delighted with the sophistication and storytelling abilities he discovered in children's writing. Believing they had identified a unique form of educational theatre, the Podagrosis formed Child's Play Touring Theatre and began traveling to rural schools in east central Illinois. They developed workshops for classroom instruction and toured throughout the area before moving to Chicago as the base for the organization in 1982. From there they continued to evolve and have now traveled throughout the country, visiting 38 states from Alaska to Florida and Maine to California, to bring their programs to the nation’s youth.
1978 - Victor Podagrosi stages children's writings.
1979 - First performance as Child's Play Touring Theatre.
1980 - Child's Play Touring Theatre incorporates as a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization.
1981 - Broadcasts two 30-minute shows on local television and creates full-time touring season.
1982 - Begins touring full-time and moves to Chicago.
1983 - Represents the U.S. at The International Children's Festival at Wolftrap. In partnership with the Chicago Board of Education, regulars on WBEZ-FM’s children's radio program, AudioJam.
1984 – Receives NEA Grant, is nominated for an award (cable TV's Emmy) and performs at Ravinia.
1985 - Awarded the Illinois Alliance of Arts in Education for a pilot five-week Writing and Theatre Company-in-Residence in Springfield, Illinois.
1986 - Initiates the Chicago Young Writer’s Project. First appearance on the Bozo Show. Commissioned by Field Museum to create an "all-dinosaur" show.
1987 - Performs at the Producers Association of Children's Theatres Showcase in New York. Performs at the national conference of the American Association of Theatre for Youth.
1988 - Expands to two full-time touring companies. Produces "Kids for President!" at the Goodman Studio. Only American children's theatre invited to perform at the first New York International Festival of the Arts.
1989 - Return engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Broadway debut. Co-founds Chicago Alliance of Professional Performing Artists for Children (CAPPAC).
1990 - Child's Play spans the continent with performances from Florida to Alaska.
1991 – Expands Chicago Young Writer’s Project to include additional educational activities.
1992 – Embarks on major tour of new election year production "Kids for President!"
1993 - Reinforces commitment to Chicago by forming partnership with other not-for-profit organizations. Selected to the Western State Arts Federation 93-95 Touring Roster.
1994 - Invited by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to participate in Strategic Planning Initiative. Undertakes first major tour of western states.
1995 - A record breaking year reaching an audience of over 2.5 million children and adults! First theatre summer camp in cooperation with the Chicago Park District.
1996 - "Kids for President!" kicks off nationwide tour in New Hampshire. Local Victor Award created in honor of founder, Victor Podagrosi. Child's Play performs at the Chicago Theatre for Hillary Clinton's book signing. Performs at Navy Pier.
1997 – Receives Emmy Award for "Kids for President!" PSA co-produced with WPWR-TV. International Victor Award created. Microsoft sponsors first online story submission. Purdue University invites Child’s Play to partner with them on “Bridging the Centuries” Millennium Project.
1998 - Child's Play Youth Theatre opens doors for public programming. Invited to be an official host of the Kellogg Youth Development Seminar. Conducted residency through the Annenberg Project.
1999 - Educational Activities boom. “Bridging the Centuries” Millennium Project continues. Program expands under the name “Writes of Passage” and finds new collaborators with Pritzker School and Field Museum, resulting in an intergenerational and multi-media program called “Changing Voices.” Develops a violence prevention program for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Develops a three year program for Byrd Academy through a grant from Disney Foundation.
2000 – Performs stories from the Millennium Project on a nationwide tour. Creates a full-time local residence company. Works with two Chicago Arts Magnet Schools under a grant from Kraft to assist educators developing programs addressing newly released Fine Arts Standards in Illinois schools.
2001 – Develops “WOW! (Writing our World)” program in partnership with Poverty Fighters. First performance of "The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t" and summer camp at the Goodman.
2002 – Premieres "WOW!" at the Goodman and returns with Christmas show in December. Begins after-school programming at the Menonomee Club. Co-founds Performing Artists Reaching Today’s Youth (PARTY).
2003 – Completes fourth year of the violence prevention initiative “Do the Write Thing” with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Launches new performance, “Dragons Don’t Sing Opera.”
2004 – Partners with Kraft, FACETS Multimedia and Hubbard Street Dance to bring special themed initiatives to several Chicago Public Schools.
2005 – Invited to Auditorium Theatre to create the “Hands Together, Heart to Art” summer camp for children who have experienced the death of one or both parents. Program became a finalist in the NCASS Creative and Innovative Awards Program. Premieres “The Creepy Crawly Show.”
2006 – Develops “Kids in Charge” program and holds a “Kids in Charge” themed summer camp at DePaul. Returns to Auditorium Theatre with “Hands Together, Heart to Art.”
2007 – Prepares “Kids for President!” 2008 tour. Performs at Ravinia’s Family Day. Develops after school program for the University of Chicago Lab School.
2008 – Appears on stage at Ravinia with “Kids for President!” Invited by the Office of Education to participate in the planning process of “The Arts Blue Print” for Chicago Public Schools.
2009 – Adds new show “The Great Green Adventures of R Man & Earth Kid” to repertory.
2010 – Celebrates 30 years as a not-for-profit. Launches new website.