In 1975, Alex Clemente of The Erie School District, Len Ekimoff of the City of Erie’s Parks and Recreation Department, and Jim Schneider created the most unique summer recreation program our city has to offer: A Musical Theatre program that would be free to all Erie children regardless of experience, background, or social status. They would learn first-hand about theatre through the production of a full–length musical. Every child would have their moment in the spotlight, and no one would be turned away. Initially called “Student Summer Theatre,” they presented “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” that summer.

In 1994, the students held a contest to rename the program. The “Student Summer Theatre” program was reborn as “The Footlights Theatre Program.” The Footlights Theatre Program remains one of the longest running and most successful programs our city has to offer our youth. 

Four Mayors and three Administrators later, it still survives.

The Footlights Theatre Program has exposed countless young people and their families to the magic of live Theatre and the Arts. It teaches them more than just the value of live entertainment It teaches them how to reach beyond the barriers brought about by their differences and instead work together to achieve a common goal. It teaches them the values of hard work, discipline, and the joyous feeling of giving something back to the community.

The vision of the three founders thrives today due to incredible community and parent support, and a dedicated staff. The Footlights Theatre Program still welcomes all students and works to promote positivity, learning, and education through performing arts.