Our History

In the Beginning ...

CenterStage in Lake Forest was created in 1971 under the name “The Group For…” The original name was a shortened version of “The Group for the Performing Arts.”

The Group For… was founded by a small but highly dedicated and talented set of friends who were trying to find a solution to a growing problem: the lack of family-oriented activities in our community.

At that time, especially during the summer when school was not in session, there were very few structured activities where both parents and children could work and play together. There were also few opportunities for people to perform in public or learn the art of stagecraft and performance. The Group For… became the community vehicle for acting, singing, dancing, music, and learning backstage craftsmanship (free of charge!).

CenterStage Today

Today CenterStage enthusiastically carries on that unique tradition of giving families and friends an opportunity to participate together throughout the year. WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!

Now in its 45th season, CenterStage has staged more than 200 productions. As community theater, CenterStage brings together individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. What these people have in common is a love of theater. They combine their diverse talents to produce high-quality comedies, musicals, and drama for the enjoyment of the community.

CenterStage’s mission is to bring quality theatrical entertainment to the community and to provide opportunities to local performers and those with technical theater expertise or interest. CenterStage offers myriad volunteer activities for members of the community. There are very few community volunteer opportunities that are more fun and rewarding than being part of a theatrical production and the CenterStage family.

Being a not-for-profit organization, CenterStage works hard at holding ticket prices at a level that makes it affordable for everyone to come and enjoy the shows. Discounts are offered for groups and students. Ticket sales alone do not cover the growing costs of staging a production, and all donations “in kind” and “in cash” are deeply appreciated and welcomed! All donations are tax-deductible.

Some CenterStage Trivia

Back when The Group For… had an active Children’s Theatre, one of the young performers was Vince Vaughn, who graduated from Lake Forest High School in 1988 and went on to perform in motion pictures such as “Swingers”, “Psycho,” “Jurassic Park: The Lost World,” “Domestic Disturbance,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Wedding Crashers,” and “The Break-Up,” just to name a few.

Kathryn Joosten directed “Arsenic and Old Lace” in 1988 and “The Nerd” in 1990 for CenterStage but is best known for her portrayal of Mrs. Laningham, secretary to the President (Martin Sheen), on the critically acclaimed NBC drama “The West Wing.” She won an Emmy for her guest appearances in “Desperate Housewives.”  She has also appeared on “Dharma and Greg,” “Becker,” “Scrubs,” “Ally McBeal,” and more than 20 other prime-time shows as well as having a successful career in commercials.