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 in homes, hotels, and 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.
Beginning in 2000, SBCT began staging larger productions outside the Firehouse, and exploring options for a new permanent venue. In January 2007, the beginning of the Civic’s 50th Anniversary year, SBCT celebrated the opening of its new home in the heart of downtown South Bend, in what had formerly been a First Church of Christ Scientist. The historic domed structure is an architectural wonder and sealed SBCT's position as a pillar of the region's art community.
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 the 209-seat Wilson Auditorium and a 80-seat “black-box” Warner 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 in the front of house. Contributions to our annual fund have risen from $3,000 in 1995 to more than $300,000 annually.
Since 1996, hundreds of area residents have participated in the Civic's educational programming, and thousands more have attended SBCT productions, compared to just a handful in years prior. And with the launch of the Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) program in 2009, K-12 students now 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 community can now claim ownership of one of the top 10 community theatre facilities in the country.