TCT Cincinnati Receives Anonymous $1.5 Million Gift

By The Children's Theatre

Pushing Emery Campaign to $30 Million & Hip-Hop Legend Gives an Additional $50K

emery theater interior

A gift of $1.5 million from an anonymous donor has powered The Children’s Theater of Cincinnati (TCT) to the $30 million milestone in its A Crown for the Queen City campaign to ensure its future as a premiere arts organization in the region and expand its innovative programming.

TCT launched its $48 million fundraising campaign to reimagine and restore the landmark Emery Theater as its permanent MainStage home and create a state-of-the-art venue unlike any in the region. Campaign chair Allison Kropp expressed her excitement and appreciation for this significant contribution to that effort.

“It is remarkable that a gift of this magnitude is fueling the home stretch of this campaign,” Kropp said. “We are so grateful for the generosity of all of those who have supported this project. You are helping us make history!”

The effort received an added $50,000 boost this month from actor, hip-hop legend, and entrepreneur Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Bridges is a client of nationally recognized entertainment attorney Darrell D. Miller, who is a former TCT Board Member and current Emery Theater Campaign Cabinet member. Bridges announced his pledge of support on Thursday, July 20 from the stage of a sold-out show with Ashanti and Flo Rida at Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati.

“I’m drawn to the Children’s Theatre’s project in Cincinnati because of the plans to develop new works that hit on the topics that matter to kids today,” Bridges said. “The Emery project signals an incredible opportunity for more children to access the arts and see themselves in what happens on stage. As a father of four daughters and a philanthropist who’s constantly investing in the next generation, I’m honored to be a part of this.”

Miller, who is Founding Chair of the Entertainment & Sports Law Department and Los Angeles Office Managing Partner at the national law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP, served on the TCT Board of Directors from 1996 to 2010.

“I will always cherish being on the Board of The Children’s Theatre during this period of rapid growth that brought life-changing, professional theatrical productions to a diverse community of young audiences,” Miller said. “It was a transformative experience in my life that formed my commitment to never stop giving back to my hometown Cincinnati community. I am grateful for Chris’s generous support for this worthy cause that is so close to my heart.”

With The Emery as its home, TCT will unlock its potential to inspire diverse audiences with original works and even more innovative programming. TCT will also expand programming for younger children (theatre for the very young) and teenagers, with works considered a revenue risk in its current rented space.

What TCT imagines is not simply a restoration but a reinvention of the theater into a modern and memorable venue equipped with the latest technology that both inspires and teaches. TCT’s plans to incorporate the most modern technology, a stage lift, an automated fly system, a 40′ x 60′ video wall, and projection mapping will provide an immersive audience experience and overcome backstage and wing space limitations.

TCT envisions a space that belongs to the community. Bringing TCT to The Emery ensures Cincinnati’s premiere children’s theatre can continue to provide arts access, education, and foundational well-being to the families and students of our region and across the Midwest for generations to come. This effort will revitalize a treasured cultural asset, provide a permanent home for children’s theatre in Cincinnati’s vibrant urban core, and put Cincinnati on the map as a family theatrical destination.

After the completion of fundraising and construction, The Children’s Theatre plans to open the Emery in Fall 2025 with its 2025-2026 MainStage season.

History of The Emery Theater

Imagined by philanthropist Mary Emery and designed by the famed architectural firm of Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the Emery Auditorium opened in January 1912 with an inaugural concert by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The acoustically exceptional 2,200-seat theater in Over-the-Rhine was once considered one of the top concert halls in the country. Sergei Rachmaninoff, John Philip Sousa, George Gershwin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bette Davis, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all stood on the Emery stage at various points in its history.

The Emery was also the performance home of TCT until 1969 when the University of Cincinnati took ownership of the property and ran it as the College of Applied Sciences until 1989. The theater was used for films, lectures, and meetings for the next decade. While the building’s upper floors were developed as apartments in 2001, the theater has fallen into disrepair since that time. TCT is the Emery Theater’s best hope to be restored to its former glory and to regain its place as a memorable and iconic arts venue. This video highlights the planned transformation.

About The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati

Celebrating 104 years this season, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (TCT) is the oldest professional theatre for young audiences in the country, creating lifelong memories and lasting impact for children and families for more than a century. TCT brings art to life through three divisions: TCT MainStage productions, TCT on Tour/WorkShops, and TCT Academy. TCT draws approximately 100,000 youth and adults to its MainStage productions, over 40,000 PreK-8 students to TCT on Tour Shows, and 1,200 students participate in TCT Academy. Each season, 50,000 students attend TCT MainStage productions with their schools. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer JR., the company’s 2022 holiday show, was the highest-grossing production in the history of TCT. This video offers a glimpse into the scope and vibrancy of programming offered by TCT.

Delivering much more than entertainment, TCT offers an inclusive space and innovative programming for children and adults to learn confidence, patience, and imagination. TCT’s partnerships with regional schools allow thousands of students each year to reap the lifelong benefits of a quality arts education that they might otherwise not experience.

Arts Education

Students who participate in the arts, both in and outside of school, demonstrate improved academic performance, increased standardized test scores, and lower dropout rates (American for the Arts). An NEA report shows the potential benefit of arts education for at-risk youth, including better academic outcomes, higher career goals, and more civic engagement. Students with access to the arts in high school were three times more likely than students who lacked those experiences to earn a bachelor’s degree. Amongst students with lower socioeconomic status, those with high arts exposure in school had the highest rates of choosing a major that aligns with a professional career compared to students with lower arts exposure (NEA, The Arts and Achievements in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies).

Despite the clear benefit of theater programming, only 4% of public elementary schools have a drama program (National Center for Education Statistics). TCT often fills this gap left by the reduction of arts education in our public schools. In fact, surveys we conducted with educators that utilize our programming demonstrated the following:

• 51% of educators reported a reduction in arts education at their schools

• 94% of educators who had experienced a reduction in arts education at their schools reported that TCT productions fill the gap caused by these cutbacks

• 100% of educators reported TCT effectively creates access to theatre for children who would not otherwise benefit

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