History of CATCO, Abridged

CATCO is the only resident, professional theatre in Columbus operating under the jurisdiction of Actors Equity Association. CATCO creates theatrical events on the stage and in Central Ohio's diverse communities and strives to delight, challenge and transport its audiences. Since it was founded in January of 1985, CATCO has produced more than 200 plays including world premieres, contemporary American and international productions and classics.

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 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 non-profit 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, we sought and received funds to add a furnace and replace Port-A-Potties with restrooms. In 1988, we added air conditioning and retired the fans we'd been distributing to our audiences.

CATCO joined Actors Equity Association in 1995. After producing four shows in Vern Riffe Center's Studio One theatre in the 1996 – 97 Season, CATCO moved to the Center, becoming its resident company in June 1997. We continued to grow artistically but encountered fiscal difficulties. For the first time in our history, we did not finish the year with a balanced budget in 1999. CATCO continued to accrue liabilities each season until, in November 2003, the board found volunteers who immediately started laying the groundwork for a strategic plan to help the theatre through its financial crisis.

In 2003, we began our 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. CATCO staff are responsible for artistic, community outreach and education initiatives and CAPA staff provide administrative services including finance, marketing, ticketing and development. CATCO retains its separate 501(c)(3) status. In May 2006, CATCO announced that after three years we completed our plan to eliminate nearly $600,000 in liabilities from our balance sheet. In 2008, we completed our sixth year in a row with a balanced budget.

Merge with Phoenix Theatre for Children

Steven C. 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); Columbus Museum of Art (Linnea in Monet's Garden, and To Be a Drum).

In the summer of 2009 the CATCO and Phoenix 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 stake holders, the two boards decided to merge under the Artistic Direction of Steven C. Anderson. The merger became effective on July 1, 2010. Its proposed goal is to provide theatrical activity, on and off the stage, for all ages from pre-school to senior citizens.

Community Impact

The merged theatre has retained the CATCO name but branched out to describe its many initiatives. The adult season is referred to as CATCO is Theatre; the children's and education programs are referred to as CATCO is Kids and the many community initiatives are CATCO is Community.

Residencies in Columbus City Schools which have a large population of students "at risk of failure in the classroom" were a flag ship program for the Phoenix. CATCO is Kids has not only continued this important work, it has expanded it into multi-grade involvement. CATCO is Kids is also developing STEM projects for middle school girls. The Full STEAM Ahead after school program adds Art to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to create "STEAM". Shakespeare 4.0 is a touring program in which middle school and high school students are introduced to Shakespeare.

Apprenticeships are available in stage management, sound and electrics, technical theatre, and acting. These apprentices, who are recent graduates of four year degree programs, begin their theatre career with CATCO. All leave the year long experience having been given the opportunity to both build their resume and their skill sets. The apprenticeships are paid positions.

Internships are available to college students who have an interest in a specific project or area of study. These tend to be much shorter experiences and are individually designed to meet the criteria of the intern's institution of higher learning. Mentorships are available to students who have an interest in seeing the theatre as a potential field of study for the future.

CATCO is proud to be a part of the revitalization of downtown. In the 2012-13 Season CATCO drew audiences to its downtown location for thirty-seven weekends. The Theatre employs Equity and non-Equity actors, directors, designers and technical professionals contributing to the economic synergy of the creative class.

Artistic Excellence

CATCO is known for our expertise in staging New Works, especially by local and regional playwrights. We have produced more than 10 world premieres, the first just a year after our founding. For many seasons the signature Shorts Festivals—anthologies of short plays by Ohio writers—were produced. The most recent example was the 2006 Festival which was set on the stage of Columbus' former Hartmann Theatre (torn down in 1971). CATCO worked with eight Ohio playwrights, selected from more than 100 scripts submitted. The Festival won audience and critical acclaim, including Best New Work for the 2006-07 Season from the Theatre Critic's Circle for Peter Pauze's Perpetual Present Tense.

In October 2005, CATCO premiered You're My Boy by Herb Brown. A novelist and former Ohio Supreme Court justice, Brown conducted extensive research to ensure that the play was historically accurate. The work dramatizes the relationship between President Eisenhower and his Vice President, Richard Nixon, and explores how that relationship shaped the Nixon responsible for the infamous Watergate scandal. In 2009, Pierce to the Soul, Chiquita Mullins Lee's biographic play of local artist, Elijah Pierce was presented to great acclaim. Producing Director, Steven C. Anderson, makes play selection in an attempt to position the company in the core of Columbus Theatre.

Each year CATCO receives awards from the local press and other organizations. In 2007 – 2008, the Central Ohio Theatre Critics Circle honored CATCO productions for best play, best actor and best director (The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh), best actress (Doubt by John Patrick Shanley), and best design (The Drawer boy by Michael Healy). During 2006-07, its production of The Piano Lesson by August Wilson swept many of the awards from the Circle, including best play production, best actor, best actress, best director, and best design. The Ohio Arts Council awarded CATCO the Governor's Award for the Arts in 1997.

Columbus Performing Arts Center (CPAC)

CATCO works in partnership with Columbus Recreation and Parks to manage the Columbus Performing Arts Center at 549 Franklin Avenue. CATCO is Kids presents two productions a year of children performing for children, eight weeks of summer camps and three quarters of Saturday classes in its musical theatre program. CATCO also oversees rental of the two theatre facility to emerging theatre companies.

CATCO's nine-member staff is led by Producing Director Steven C. Anderson. Joe Bishara, Associate Producing Director, oversees the CATCO is Kids programming in addition to assisting the Producing Director. CATCO continues its shared services agreement with CAPA, which provides administrative support in finance, marketing, ticketing, graphic design and development.