101 Stories: Helen Schuster-Martin

By The Children's Theatre

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. 

The legacy of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati began with Helen Schuster-Martin in the Schuster-Martin School of the Drama in 1919. Ms. Schuster-Martin coined the name “The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati” and began directing and writing productions for young audiences.  After receiving the author’s permission, she wrote “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit: A Play in Three Acts,” dramatized from the bedtime stories by Thornton Burgess. It was copyrighted and performed in 1919, per the 1919 Catalog of Copyright Entries, as well as a historic letter of publicity.  She also adapted “The Adventures of Sammy Jay,” which TCT performed in 1921, per “The Playground, Community Service” publication.

Ms. Schuster-Martin was the aunt of matinee idol Tyrone Power, who took classes at her renowned Cincinnati school. Other notable students included American radio actress Virginia Payne, as well as beloved screen star Doris Day.

Women were among the early creative leaders in radio drama, notably Helen Schuster-Martin. In 1923, WLW hired Ms. Schuster-Martin to direct all of the radio station’s radio plays, dubbed “Radarios.” From the book, Radio Drama: The Early Years: “Dramatic readings were added to the WLW daytime schedule on September 6, 1923. Fred Smith read stories with piano background from “the classics.” On October 4 came the announcement that Helen Schuster-Martin of the Schuster-Martin Dramatic School, henceforth would direct all of the radarios. Further, she would form a “stock company of 14 actors to be called the “Crosley Radarians.” By the fall of 1923, the Radarians were presenting dramas every week on Thursday evenings at 10:00 p.m.”

A Junior League of Cincinnati member, Ms. Schuster-Martin, brought her expertise of live theatrical entertainment for children to that organization and helped to launch The Junior League Players. In 1924, TCT was placed in the hands of The Junior League of Cincinnati to continue the legacy as the nation’s oldest and one of the largest theatres for young audiences. She served as a director of their first productions in the early 1920s, with Junior League members serving as actors, managing ticket sales, and overseeing production responsibilities until The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati launched as an independent nonprofit organization in 1947. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati performed in the Emery Theatre until 1969.

We owe a great debt of thanks to Helen Schuster-Martin. This incredible, trail-blazing woman started TCT on its journey to where we are today and our path towards tomorrow.

Would you honor Helen Scheuster Martin with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?

Cover of a Schuster-Martin School of the Drama diploma

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