The Cain Park Theatre Collection

Timeline of Events

A timeline of important events in the history of Cain Park
Date Event
1915 The 22-acre ravine was used as a park as early as 1915, when voters approved a $100,000 bond issue to acquire land for Cain and Cumberland Parks. Mayor Fran C. Cain took an active role in negotiating for the purchase of the undeveloped land along Superior Road between Lee and Taylor Roads.
1925 Residents passed another bond issue in 1925 which would allow $75,000 for the improvement of both parks.
May 1934 A brief ceremony was held on May 25, 1934, naming the park for Mayor Frank C. Cain, Cleveland Heights mayor from 1914 to 1946, whose goal was "to lift Cain Park out of the gully." Immediately following the ceremony, Dr. Dina Rees Evans, a Heights High faculty, produced the first outdoor play on the park property. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was seen on the hillside at the Taylor Road end of the park.
October 1934 Beginning in October 1934, the construction of Cain Park began and was primarily financed with County Soldiers and Sailors Relief Commission and Works Progress Administration funds.
1934 -1950 Dr. Dina Rees "Doc" Evans serves as supervising director of Cain Park Theater.
August 1938 With the site work and amphitheater primarily completed, a dedication service was held on August 10, 1938. However, the planned finale–scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream–was postponed due to rain.
1938 Season In 1938, "Warrior's Husband" opened as the first Cain Park production on August 11 (Local television legend Dorothy Fuldheim played the part of the "third sentry"), and two additional productions followed during that season.
1940 In 1940, Sunday night "Community Hour" talks at the amphitheater were instituted. They included political, religious and general interest lectures followed by community hymn singing where words were flashed on a screen while choirs and audience sang. These popular events drew as many as 2000 people.
1942-1945 The completion of the Colonnade and Terrace was slowed from 1942 until 1945 due to the War, and construction was completed late in 1945.
1944 The Alma Theater, added in 1944, was named for the Mayor's wife, Alma Cain and was originally constructed for children's puppet shows. It is located adjacent to the Amphitheater.
1946 Cain Park approved by the Veterans' Administration to offer fifteen veterans training in Community Theatre Management, Community Theatre Architecture, Production Techniques, Acting, and Children's Theatre.
1946 After 32 years of service, Mayor Frank Cain retires.
1950s The decade when Cain Park shifted from community theater stage to a semiprofessional one, with expensive talent from outside the area draining the theater's coffers. The end of the streetcar made for more difficulty in accessing the park and there was a countrywide decline in theater due to a poor economy and rising popularity of the television.
1953 In its early years, the Alma Theater was strictly a puppet theater, though in 1953 a new roof was built and, from that point forward, the theater was used for live actors rather than puppets.
1957 By this time, park operations had been cut back and only two theatrical performances are held, though several musical performances round out the season.
1958 No events or performances are given in the Amphitheater, though the Children's school, a mainstay throughout the park's history, continues in the Alma Theatre.
1959 An experiment with letting private interests present concerts is a failure, despite appearances by Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte, and Johnny Mathis.
Early 1960s The early 1960s brought no adult theatrical productions to the Amphitheater, though the children's programs staged a handful of productions.
1967 Both the Amphitheater and the Alma Theater were dark for the entire summer, and studies are undertaken for the park's future–including the possibility of building a new City Hall in the park.
1968 - 1970s "Dancing Under the Stars" on Saturday nights began in 1968 and continues through the 1970s. The 6600 sq. ft. stage became a dance floor with tables for seating about 300 at its periphery. The popular event, featuring the music of big bands, including Paul Burton Orchestra, Vince Patti Orchestra and Lou Sivillo Orchestra, had an average attendance of 1100.
1968 Rock-n-Roll Friday teen night for teenagers where held starting in 1968, with live music by such bands as "Little G and the Vibrators" and "Lunatic Fringe". The Cain Park Art Gallery opened in the former children's theatre office building. The gallery was later named for Audrey and Harvey Feinberg, both of whom were responsible for initiating the Cain Park Arts Festival.
1969 Lectures, as well as movies are presented in the "little theater," and the popular dancing events overshadowed a shortened Alma Theater production season. WJW Radio 850 broadcasted the live dance music from the park.
1970 Free Tuesday evening sketching classes were held at the park, continuing the theater's expansion into the visual arts.
1970s No theatrical productions were held at the Amphitheater with the exception of a 1973 production of "Our American Cousin," though the Saturday "Dancing Under the Stars" continued its popularity, with attendance of over two thousand dancers in good weather. Also successful were Friday Teen Dances, which had up to 5000 in attendance for live rock bands. Performances by the Cain Park Chorale also drew good attendance. The visual arts continue to be a draw for Cain Park, with the Cain Park Art Gallery drawing as many as 2700 during the summer season. Tuesday evening free adult art classes continue at the Art Gallery.
Mid 1970s Free musical "Tuesday Twilight Festivals" are held on the Amphitheater stage.
1978 The first Cain Park Arts Festival is held, though it takes several years to earn the respect of national artists.
1979 A positive turn for Cain Park: United Artists filmed the movie Those Lips, Those Eyes in the Amphitheater, which was based on writer David Shaber's memories of working at Cain Park as a child. The film company invested $100,000 in refurbishing Amphitheater, which again made it possible to have plays on the main stage.
1980 Camelot is performed as the first major theater production in the Amphitheater in over a decade.
1980s At least one Amphitheater production was included each season.
Late 1980s Alma Theater was redesigned again in the late 1980s in the Post Modern vein with colorful ornament, including a tower which hints at the Victorian era.
1988 Residents passed a Parks Bond Issue, which provided $5 million for Cain Park renovations: New theater seating, improved children's recreation facilities, improved lighting and sound, handicapped access, and new landscaping beautified the park, while the new steel canopy roof over the Amphitheater provided protection against Mother Nature, who had long plagued the theater.
1989 Designed by van Dijk, Johnson and Partners, the roof was constructed in 1989 with careful consideration to maintain the theater's historic qualities. The Amphitheater is named Evans Amphitheater in Dr. Evans' honor.
1990 to present The Amphitheater's new roof made all the difference in the theater's ability to operate without the threat of rain-outs. For the first time, the City was able to sponsor national acts, including Joan Baez, Harry Belfonte, The Chieftains, The Temptations, Moody Blues, Sarah McLachlan, Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, Dionne Warwick, Art Garfunkel, Emmylou Harris, the Everly Brothers, and Lyle Lovett, to name only a few. Often performing before sell-out crowds, safely covered from inclement weather, Cain Park has again become the regional draw that it was during its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s.
2013 Cain Park Theatre celebrated its 75th Anniversary.