50th Anniversary of the St. Nicholas Theater Company

Fifty years ago, David Mamet, Steven Schacter, Patricia Cox and William H. Macy got together and created St. Nicholas Theater Company. While the company itself only lasted eight years, it was incredibly influential, as were the people who founded it. Mamet, Schacter, and Macy all went on to careers on Broadway and in Hollywood, while Cox has served in theater leadership positions nationwide, including a stint as Chair of the Board at the Goodman Theater

SNTC would premiere several of David Mamet's early and most exciting plays, including American Buffalo, The Water Engine, and The Woods. It would also be the home of the Midwest premieres of The Fifth of July by Lanford Wilson and Uncommon Women and Others by Wendy Wasserstein. Originally, St. Nicholas also did one classic per season, and these included Arthur Miller's A View from the BridgeLillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, and You Can't Take It With You by George Kaufman and Moss Hart.  

Children's theater is always popular, and SNTC produced the highly comic Captain Marbles series of plays for young audiences. This anthology about a troupe of performers eventually ran five episodes, and often referenced incidents in the actual St. Nicholas company. There were other productions for children, and even David Mamet tried his hand at children's theater with Revenge of the Space Pandas.

Education was always part of the St. Nicholas mission. This led to their School of Theater Arts, which offered intensive summer and two-year courses of study for youth and beginning actors. Highly successful, the school provided needed income and was to remain in the original space at 2851 N. Halsted when the anticipated move to the Ivanhoe Theater was complete.

Of course, all good things must end, and after negotiating to rent and refurbish the Ivanhoe Theater, SNTC realized they did not have the funds to produce shows of the quality their audiences expected. This followed some leadership churn and the departure of the founders. St. Nicholas wound down operations and made a much-lamented departure from the Chicago theater scene in 1982. 

The Archives and Special Collections department at Harold Washington Library Center has the archives of the St. Nicholas Theater Company. Email them at specoll@chipublib.org. to set up an appointment.