Kankakee Valley Theatre had its roots with a group calling themselves “The Key City Players.” In 1962, a fine arts committee of the American Association of University Women with the aid of a Bourbonnais priest presented a children’s theatre production of Hansel and Gretel. The women of the group wrote the play, made sets and costumes, sold popcorn, and toured local schools with the proceeds going to Riverside Hospital in Kankakee.
A nucleus from that group formed the Kankakee Little Theatre sponsored by the Kankakee Park District. Its first season was performed on the stage of the Civic Auditorium. Audiences paid $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for students to sit on wooden folding chairs padded with cushions sewn at a local upholstery plant.
In 1965, the Kankakee Little Theatre renovated two rooms in the Unity Building in Kankakee for their first official headquarters. The season had expanded to three productions.
In May of 1969 during its annual meeting, the membership adopted a new constitution and by-laws. This officially changed the group’s name to Kankakee Valley Theatre to reflect more accurately the area of the organization and in keeping with the name change of its sponsor, Kankakee Valley Park District.
The 1969-70 season brought major growth and community recognition to KVT. Audience attendance grew so dramatically, that the last two season productions had to be moved to the Westview High School auditorium to accommodate larger audiences. The group had run the gamut from performing fairy tales to greek classics to Broadway musicals!
By this time, the headquarters had become overrun with props and storage. To our rescue came a local patron with an offer of an empty warehouse downtown that could be rented for a nominal fee.
The demand from the community for more musicals reshaped the selection of seasons from then on to include at least one and more often two musicals per season. We now could compliment our musicals with full orchestras. In 1973, KVT joined the Illinois Theatre Association. By 1975, massive reorganization was needed and implemented. An auxiliary group called The Spotlighters took shape to help with membership drives, mailings and patron lounge. A telephone box office system was also introduced to meet ticket demands.