CTA History

The Children’s Theatre Association of San Francisco (CTA) was founded in 1934 with the support of the Junior League of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Education, and both the San Francisco Opera and Ballet companies.  Over the next 80+ years, CTA has brought classic children’s stories to life on the stage. Our audiences are comprised of primary school age children who, most likely, never would be exposed to the wonder and magic of musical theater. Throughout the course of an annual three-month run – January through March – almost 7,000 school children, along with their teachers, attend our weekday performances. Our goal is for these children to develop a lifelong appreciation for the performing arts.

At first, our all-volunteer group loaded sets and costumes into their cars and traveled to various locations to perform. Now CTA’s musical plays are all performed in one professional theater space and are professionally written and directed, ensuring the quality of our annual productions.  Our members invest hundreds of hours each year in producing the shows – from set building, acting, making costumes, running crew, etc. — all to create a first rate performance. Our school children are delighted as are our paid audience members who purchase tickets to attend weekend performances during the run of the show. These weekend performances help defray the costs of our free performances for the schools. CTA also provides some free tickets to families who cannot afford to attend our paid performances.  Members of CTA devote their time and talents to help sustain the creative tradition of Children’s Theatre Association.

A chorale group was added in 1994 to enhance community outreach. Under the musical direction of noted pianist and composer Dwight Okamura, the members of the Songbirds sing in three and four-part harmony. They visit hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations each winter and spring and are also available to sing for private parties.  For more information on the Songbirds, click here.

In 1998, in recognition of its many years providing quality live theatre to youth, the Bay Area Theatre Critics honored CTA with a Circle Award. And in 2006, the Smuin Ballet Company gave a special performance to honor CTA’s contribution to the local community.

From early in the 1980’s through 2011, CTA had an alliance with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Department of Education (FAMSF). That thirty year relationship provided CTA with valuable use of the museum’s administrative staff, publicity outreach and, most importantly, its theater venue. In 2012, FAMSF changed the focus of its school programs and CTA needed to find a new venue and become entirely autonomous in its operations. The membership rallied and altered our fundraising focus and goals.  The show must go on!!

Following our move from FAMSF, we performed at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater and the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason Center. In the Fall of 2019, CTA moved to the newly re-vamped state-of-the-art Presidio Theatre, which we are thrilled to call our new home after 85 years of serving the children, our schools, and the public.