Children’s Theatre lands $5M gift for renovation of Emery

Carl and Martha Lindner donated $5 million toward The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s ongoing restoration of its former and future home, the Emery Theater.

The Children’s Theatre is in the middle of its $49.5 million “A Crown for the Queen City” fundraising campaign to support the conversion of the historic but dilapidated Over-the-Rhine building into a state-of-the-art MainStage home.

In July, the project received an anonymous $1.5 million gift as well as a $50,000 donation from actor and hip-hop artist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges.

Rendering: The audience looks at a performance on the stage of a remodeled Emery Theater.

Allison Kropp, the campaign’s co-chair, described being “overwhelmed” by the generosity from the community, most notably the most recent gift from the Lindners. As a thank-you to the family, the Emery’s primary public entrance on Walnut Street will be known as the “Martha S. Lindner Grand Entrance.” 

“We are now so close to realizing our dream to see children’s imaginations come alive as they experience this historic space and create lifetime memories of pure joy, wonder, and family – for generations to come,” she said.

Throughout the fundraising campaign, TCT has referred to the project as more than a renovation of the Samuel Hannaford & Sons designed facility. For one, the 2,200-seat theater was its performance home until 1969. But they’ve also stressed it presents several new opportunities the company hasn’t had in its 104-year-old history.

This “reinvention” of the acoustically exceptional performance hall into a modern-day venue aims to enable TCT to enhance its storytelling capabilities. Some of the planned technical upgrades include a turntable stage lift, an automated fly system and a 40-foot by 60-foot video wall. The addition of projection mapping intends to not only create a more immersive audience experience but also help the production crew overcome backstage and wing space limitations.

Outside the performance hall, construction will focus on aesthetics, audience amenities and making it shine like it did when it opened in 1912.

Rendering: Costume actors perform on a stage as an audience inside a renovated Emery Theater look on.

Right now, the company rents performance space. Doing that has made it difficult to choose programming geared toward very young children, teenagers and other productions considered a “revenue risk,” according to Kim Kern, TCT’s managing director and CEO.

Kern, who’s been with the organization since 2013, believes owning a theater opens up the possibility for TCT to become more adventurous with the shows it chooses.

Once complete, the Emery will “belong to the community,” Kern said. TCT plans to use it to provide greater access to the theater and art education to young people from across the region.

The Children’s Theatre expects the Emery to be ready in time for the 2025-2026 season.

“[The Lindner’s] gift allows us to revitalize a treasured cultural asset, provide a permanent home for children’s theater in Cincinnati’s vibrant urban core, and put Cincinnati on the map as a family theatrical destination,” Kern said.


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