101 Stories: Anna & Jack Stenken, TCT MainStage Patrons

By The Children's Theatre

Anna Stenken and her son, Jack, have been long time patrons of TCT MainStage.

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

Anna says: “Jack was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two and was non-verbal until age four.  In Kindergarten, he attended a school production and ran out of the performance crying due to his sensory challenges.  After that he refused to go to any theatre productions until eleven years later, Jack’s school took him to see The Children’s Theatre’s sensory performance of Elf the Musical JR. and he fell in love with theatre.  Two months later they attended another sensory performance with The Children’s Theatre and he came home so very excited that he began to research The Children’s Theatre.  This led us to becoming season ticket patrons. He memorized the website bios of the leadership team and a new door of opportunity opened up inside of him.” 

“What you have done for Jack is amazing,” she continues. “I am so grateful because he is very creative and there are not very many creative outlets for people like Jack. He now has a goal of studying musical theatre in college at some point and that is a realistic goal. As a parent, I am thrilled with that. But the best thing about TCT is the people. Everyone has been so kind and so welcoming, and all have offered to make things work so that Jack could participate in classes and workshops despite his autism and despite him being a bit older. You don’t always get that when you have a child with autism. Inclusion is an amazing gift.”

Jack says: “My first experience with The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati was when I saw Elf The Musical JR. with my school, The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, and it was a Sensory-Friendly performance.  Two months later, I saw The Wizard of Oz, another Sensory-Friendly performance with my school again.  Since my school has kids with autism and other related disorders, they probably don’t like it when it’s loud.  Sometimes I don’t like loud noises but since I have been coming to the theater, I have become more used to it.  I love everything about TCT.  This made me want to become an actor or stage worker someday.  I now take guitar and piano lessons and I am thinking of taking acting and dancing – the triple threat.  At school, I am learning how to use machines to build things which will help me learn how to build scenery.  The Children’s Theatre has inspired me, and I look forward to working in the theatre one day. “

Anna says: “Attending your shows has become a great way for us to have special time together. Jack is being exposed to cultural ideas and experiences that he was not open to experiencing previously, but is now, because of TCT. It’s truly miraculous as you have given him a life plan in addition to being so kind and so encouraging to both Jack and me. Jack walks into each interaction with staff and is welcomed wholeheartedly and made to feel important, like he has a place there. I could not even begin to imagine a better place than TCT!”


Would you honor Anna and Jack Stenken with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?