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Our Mission | The Theatre of Western Springs' mission is to entertain, to educate, and to inspire across the generations through the art of live theatre.
Our History | The Theatre of Western Springs (TWS) was founded under the leadership of Mary Cattell in 1929. The charter members dedicated themselves to promoting theatrical education, literacy, culture and civic progress via the production of plays in the community. They believed in the need for entertainment in the community, the need for a creative outlet and the need for the individual to understand himself and his universe. They felt strongly that these needs could be met through the performing arts.
In 1928, Mary gathered a play-reading group of 24 friends in her living room. Soon afterward, they conducted a door-to-door campaign for support using names garnered from the village water department's customer list. Finally, just three months after the stock market crash of 1929, the Theatre opened with three one-act plays performed at the Village Club.
Mary guided the artistic growth of the Little Theatre of Western Springs by sharing her own pursuit of excellence. She studied acting, directing, and even scene design in schools ranging from Fordham University to one in Bath, England. She took courses with the giants of contemporary theatre, from Sanford Meisner to Tamara Daykarhanova and Ivan Lazereff. By sharing her training with a community of local artists, she raised the standards of production. The audience no longer attended shows just to see its neighbors on stage; it came for the quality.
In late 1945, The Children's Theatre of Western Springs (CTWS) was organized under the direction of Ella Heimbrodt, one of the charter members of the adult theatre. Some fifty years later, CTWS remains a full well rounded program that emphasizes the very basics of theatre arts; acting, voice, movement, stagecraft, playwriting and technical theatre. Classes for the academic year run September through May and meet once a week (2nd-8th graders for one hour, high schoolers for two hours).
Continuous operation for more than 30 years led to the fulfillment of Mary's dearest dream - a permanent home for the Theatre that had outgrown the adjective "little" and became the Theatre of Western Springs, nationally recognized for its artistic excellence and its position of respect among Chicago's creative community.
Sixty-five years later, our educational programs provide a well-rounded experience for more than 400 students, covering subjects from improvisation and movement to directing and technical crafts. Classes meet weekly from September through May, allowing for a rich and progressive curriculum. During the summer, an intensive children's theatre camp mounts a full production during each of four two-week sessions.
Clearly, the Theatre of Western Springs is more than just a building where plays are performed. It's a place where a community of all ages comes together to train for, explore, and demonstrate the art of theatre. The building is open nearly every day of the year for rehearsals, classes, production calls, administrative work, meetings, lectures, and training seminars.
In addition to establishing a place for artists to work, Mary Cattell created a theatre that educates its audience and addresses interesting topics. She wanted views to be challenged mentally and aesthetically - to stretch a bit. She knew, as we still do today, that none of this would be possible without the support of our patrons. Without you, whom Mary called our "devoted adherents," our Theatre would not exist.
In addition to offering a superior level of theatre and theatre education to the community, TWS does something else: TWS Changes Lives. You only need to ask some of the Children's Theatre graduates whose training on the CTWS stage shaped their lives; some of the Actives who have worked onstage and backstage with such enthusiasm and devotion; some of the staff who have served here with such pride. Come see what makes TWS a very special kind of place.