A Complete (Abridged) History of CATCO

CATCO is central Ohio’s leading resident, professional theatre company. It operates under the jurisdiction of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). CATCO creates theatrical events on the stage and in central Ohio’s diverse communities and strives to delight, challenge and transport its audiences. Since CATCO’s founding in January 1985, CATCO and CATCO is Kids have produced more than 250 plays, including world premieres, contemporary comedies and dramas, musicals, and international productions.

A Complete (Abridged) History of CATCO

CATCO is central Ohio’s leading resident, professional theatre company. It operates under the jurisdiction of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). CATCO creates theatrical events on the stage and in central Ohio’s diverse communities and strives to delight, challenge and transport its audiences. Since CATCO’s founding in January 1985, CATCO and CATCO is Kids have produced more than 250 plays, including world premieres, contemporary comedies and dramas, musicals, and international productions.

Geoffrey Nelson, founding artistic director, provided continuity and vision for CATCO for two and a half decades. He produced and directed the pilot production, Mass Appeal, which was presented at the Downtown YWCA. The production garnered critical acclaim and audience support that enabled Nelson to pay the actors and the credit card bill he accrued to fund the production.

CATCO formed a board of trustees and incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1986. That fall the company leased warehouse space on Park Street in the Short North District and converted it into a theatre—in 3 1/2 weeks! Bowing to feedback from audiences attending the first three productions in the space, the theatre sought and received funds to add a furnace and replace Port-A-Potties with restrooms. In 1988, it added air conditioning and retired the fans that had been distributed to summertime audiences.

Geoffrey Nelson, founding artistic director, provided continuity and vision for CATCO for two and a half decades. He produced and directed the pilot production, Mass Appeal, which was presented at the Downtown YWCA. The production garnered critical acclaim and audience support that enabled Nelson to pay the actors and the credit card bill he accrued to fund the production.

CATCO formed a board of trustees and incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1986. That fall the company leased warehouse space on Park Street in the Short North District and converted it into a theatre—in 3 1/2 weeks! Bowing to feedback from audiences attending the first three productions in the space, the theatre sought and received funds to add a furnace and replace Port-A-Potties with restrooms. In 1988, it added air conditioning and retired the fans that had been distributed to summertime audiences.

CATCO joined Actors’ Equity Association in 1995. After producing four shows in the Vern Riffe Center’s Studio One theatre in the 1996-97 Season, CATCO moved to the Center, becoming its resident company in June 1997. Coincidentally, Steven C. Anderson, former producing director, was a guest director for the company’s first Riffe production – Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion. CATCO continued to grow artistically. In November 2003, the board found volunteers who laid the groundwork for a strategic plan to ensure the theatre’s growth.

At the same time, CATCO began its unique shared services model with the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). With the assistance of Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP, CATCO and CAPA developed the structure for CATCO, which included management, production and rental agreements between the two organizations. Bill Conner, president and CEO of CAPA at the time, served as volunteer managing director for several years. CATCO staff were responsible for artistic, community outreach and education initiatives, while CAPA staff provided administrative services including finance, marketing, ticketing and development. CATCO retained its separate 501(c)(3) status.

CATCO joined Actors’ Equity Association in 1995. After producing four shows in the Vern Riffe Center’s Studio One theatre in the 1996-97 Season, CATCO moved to the Center, becoming its resident company in June 1997. Coincidentally, Steven C. Anderson, former producing director, was a guest director for the company’s first Riffe production – Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion. CATCO continued to grow artistically. In November 2003, the board found volunteers who laid the groundwork for a strategic plan to ensure the theatre’s growth.

At the same time, CATCO began its unique shared services model with the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). With the assistance of Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP, CATCO and CAPA developed the structure for CATCO, which included management, production and rental agreements between the two organizations. Bill Conner, president and CEO of CAPA at the time, served as volunteer managing director for several years. CATCO staff were responsible for artistic, community outreach and education initiatives, while CAPA staff provided administrative services including finance, marketing, ticketing and development. CATCO retained its separate 501(c)(3) status.

MERGE WITH PHOENIX THEATRE FOR CHILDREN

In the summer of 2009, CATCO and Phoenix Theatre for Children Boards of Trustees began to discuss the possibility of merging the two companies. After months of strategizing, designing a business plan and conversations with community stakeholders, the two boards decided to merge under Anderson’s artistic direction. The merger became effective July 1, 2010.

Anderson was the founder and artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre for Children. The Phoenix, which was born in 1993 out of the ashes of Players Theatre Columbus, became well known for artistic excellence, innovative programming, applying the theatrical arts to help solve community challenges and integrating theatre as a teaching strategy for school curricula. The theatre was a pioneer in artistic collaboration as well. Its partners included Ballet Met (Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin); Columbus Symphony Orchestra (Firebird); and Columbus Museum of Art (Linnea in Monet’s Garden, and To Be a Drum).  The merger’s proposed goal was to provide theatrical activity, on and off the stage, for all ages from preschool to senior citizens.  Shortly after the merger, The Phoenix was rebranded as CATCO is Kids.

MERGE WITH PHOENIX THEATRE FOR CHILDREN

In the summer of 2009, CATCO and Phoenix Theatre for Children Boards of Trustees began to discuss the possibility of merging the two companies. After months of strategizing, designing a business plan and conversations with community stakeholders, the two boards decided to merge under Anderson’s artistic direction. The merger became effective July 1, 2010.

Anderson was the founder and artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre for Children. The Phoenix, which was born in 1993 out of the ashes of Players Theatre Columbus, became well known for artistic excellence, innovative programming, applying the theatrical arts to help solve community challenges and integrating theatre as a teaching strategy for school curricula. The theatre was a pioneer in artistic collaboration as well. Its partners included Ballet Met (Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin); Columbus Symphony Orchestra (Firebird); and Columbus Museum of Art (Linnea in Monet’s Garden, and To Be a Drum).  The merger’s proposed goal was to provide theatrical activity, on and off the stage, for all ages from preschool to senior citizens.  Shortly after the merger, The Phoenix was rebranded as CATCO is Kids.

2020 CHANGES

On March 13 of 2020, CATCO & CATCO is Kids temporarily scaled back operations due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and government restrictions on large gatherings. All Riffe Center stages were closed, and educational programming was pivoted to be delivered digitally via recordings and livestreaming.

Steven C. Anderson retired as CATCO’s Producing Director on July 31, 2020. The Board of Directors shifted to an updated management structure – Artistic Director and Executive Director.

Christy Farnbauch began as Executive Director on April 15, 2020. And, following a national search, Leda Hoffmann began as Artistic Director on August 3, 2020.

2020 CHANGES

On March 13 of 2020, CATCO & CATCO is Kids temporarily scaled back operations due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and government restrictions on large gatherings. All Riffe Center stages were closed, and educational programming was pivoted to be delivered digitally via recordings and livestreaming.

Steven C. Anderson retired as CATCO’s Producing Director on July 31, 2020. The Board of Directors shifted to an updated management structure – Artistic Director and Executive Director.

Christy Farnbauch began as Executive Director on April 15, 2020. And, following a national search, Leda Hoffmann began as Artistic Director on August 3, 2020.