South Bend Civic Theatre (SBCT) was founded in 1957 by two University of Notre Dame graduates who believed community theatre should be an important part of this area's culture, and who also believed that living in our community were aspiring actors and actresses who needed to show and form their talents.
While early performances were held at various locations at Notre Dame, SBCT staged most of its productions after 1968 at The Firehouse, a local historic landmark located on Portage Ave., in South Bend's historic Near Northwest neighborhood. The Firehouse is still used by SBCT today for alternative performances, such as cabaret concerts and improv comedy.
Beginning in the year 2000, SBCT also began staging selected productions each year at various venues in the area, including Century Center’s Bendix Theatre, the Morris Performing Arts Center, and, for the first time in 2005, at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Under the leadership of an incredible Board of Directors and then Executive Director Jim Coppens, SBCT began exploring solutions for the need for more space. In January 2007, the beginning of SBCT’s 50th Anniversary year, South Bend Civic Theatre celebrated the opening of its new home in downtown South Bend, in what was formerly the Scottish Rite Building.
Through generous individual support as well as community and corporate underwriting, SBCT was able to complete construction on a new 3,500-square-foot scene shop, renovation of a 209-seat Mainstage Auditorium and a 70-seat versatile “black-box” Studio Theatre – all in little more than a year. In November of 2009, a special gift to SBCT eliminated the mortgage on the facility, the final chapter on the capital campaign that has allowed the organization to experience exponential growth in impact and production values.
South Bend Civic Theatre has grown dramatically in the past decade. Programming has increased from six to more than a dozen productions annually, with more than 125 performances a year. The audience has grown from 3,500 to 20,000. Hundreds of volunteers participate annually onstage, backstage, on the board and as ushers. Contributions to our annual fund have risen from $3,000 in 1995 to more than $180,000 annually.
Since 1996, thousands of area youth have benefited from SBCT classes and camps, attended or participated in SBCT productions, compared to just a handful in years prior. And with the launch of the “Kids4Kids” program in 2009, thousands of K through 12 students have the chance to see live theatre through SBCT’s daytime school performances.
SBCT has been recognized time and again through awards at state, regional and national competitions. In fact, our our community can now claim ownership of being one of the top 10 community theatre facilities in the country.