Who's-Who in Community Theatre - Summer Place Theatre

Chris Peterson

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Many of us know the value of community theatre. Not only is it a place where people can stay active in the art they love, but it can also foster the next generation of professional actors we see on stage and screen. I've spoken to many a professional actor, director, designer that have told me they got their start by being involved in their hometown theatre groups. 

So I want to start a column on this site where every week or so we feature a community theatre that is doing some fantastic work, not only on stage but off as well. 

If you know a community theatre that you feel is doing outstanding work, either in this country or another one, let us know by emailing cpeterson@onstageblog.com with the subject line "Community theatre". 


Summer Place Theatre - Naperville, IL

I love community theatres that have an interesting origin story. We all know that Chicago is home to a thriving professional theatre industry. However on the outskirts of the Windy City, is some of the best community theatre you can find. One such place with one such story is the Summer Place Theatre in neighboring Naperville. 

Founded 50 years ago this summer, Summer Place Theatre has been entertaining its community for generations. It was founded by Don Shanower and Don Jamison in 1966. It was founded due to the interest from students of North Central College to have more performance opportunities once the school year ended.

For the first couple of seasons, their shows were performed in an empty storefront and then under tents on the North Central College campus. Presently, their productions are performed in the 600+ seat auditorium of Naperville Central High School. 

Fun fact: John Belushi was actually cast in one of their shows however was fired due to absences from rehearsals...that sounds about right. 

Today, the Summer Place Theatre is going strong. This season they performed Jesus Christ Superstar and are about to open The Music Man on July 29th. 

While the times have certainly changed, it's great to see theatres like Summer Place Theatre have become pillars of their community. I wish them nothing but the best and congratulate them on their 50th Anniversary. 

For tickets and info visit, summerplacetheatre.org

Photo: Summer Place Theatre