Bluff City Theater is based in Hannibal, Missouri and was founded in 2013. An artist-driven theater company we place an emphasis on literary works that bridge the gap between books and stage. While not exclusively limited to literature, our goal will be to explore the written word through stage adaptation.
While we are primarily a producing company, we may from time-to-time present other works consistent with our artistic mandate. We seek to enhance the quality of life for residents of North-Eastern Missouri and Western Illinois by producing high-quality performances employing the best actors, directors, musicians and technicians available in an intimate setting. We commit ourselves to developing new works as well as reviving old favorites, especially those that may be forgotten, under-performed or under-appreciated.
First and foremost, we seek to entertain but our mandate extends to educating audiences and fostering a larger discussion around the works and their themes and an appreciation of the role live theater plays in propagating ideas and public discourse. As an ancillary to the primary goals, we partner with the larger arts community to, when appropriate, foster a broader exploration of themes using other forms like lecture, film and the visual arts.
Bluff City Theater is the brainchild of Joe Anderson and Wesley Yargus.
Following Joe’s retirement in 2012 from a nearly 40-year career as a media executive, including 25 as Vice-President and Regional Publisher for Metroland Media (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), the founders undertook a road-trip that included a stop in Wesley’s childhood home of Hannibal, Missouri.
While employed at Meroland, Joe had been instrumental in helping to launch Talk is Free Theater in Barrie Ontario, Canada along with Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak. Together, they created one of Canada’s most innovative and successful small theater companies, producing numerous world-premiere plays, winning a Dora Award for best musical, co-producing with larger institutions across the country and mounting a successful European tour. The experience helped establish Barrie as a premier Canadian theater center that attracts top directors, playwrights, actors and audience from across the country for its now two professional theater companies.
Hannibal has long enjoyed tourism centered around Mark Twain, but as Joe notes, Mark Twain is a generational draw- visitors come, tour the sites and leave, not to come back for 20 years. The key to place-based cultural tourism is to develop attractions and events that bring visitors back year-after-year; that encourage them to see Hannibal a desirable place to live, invest and start businesses.
Joe and Wesley felt that a regionally-significant professional theater would be one way to build cultural infrastructure capable of supporting long-term tourism. After meeting with community leaders and conducting a series of community meet-and-greets, they decided there was sufficient support to launch in the summer of 2014.
Lacking a performing space, the theater premiered with Tales of an Urban Indian, performed entirely on a moving transit bus. A powerful and raw play about the experience of being moved to the city after growing up on a reservation, it dealt with issues of racism, teenage sex, homosexuality, alcoholism and suicide yet had a positive and uplifting message about spirituality and life. The play ran for 32 performances over six weeks and was an audience hit.
In the summer of 2014, the founders acquired the former F&M Bank building at 212 Broadway, a neo-classical style Greek revival building that had been vacant for several years. With financial, physical and in-kind support from local businesses, the building was transformed into an intimate 90-seat performing space and came into service in January 2015 with its inaugural production of Andrew Edlin’s Churchill.
BCT likes to challenge how theater is performed and has produced two shows environmentally in the derelict 1888 Federal Building at 600 Broadway and one outdoors on the banks of the Mississippi.
As of 2020, BCT has produced 29 plays including three world-premieres, two American premieres of foreign works, one outdoor production and three environmental productions where local landmarks were transformed, temporarily, into performance spaces.
Directors come from across North America. Our professional actors, while primarily St. Louis-based have also come from Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto. For at least one production a year, we put local children and youth on stage with professionals.
After a disappointing cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, BCT is returning this summer with two outdoor productions in Hannibal’s Central Park and an 11-week cabaret schedule through Labor Day in the theater.
Audiences continue to be amazed at the diversity, creativity and excellence of Bluff City Theater productions. One of the most common comments we hear from first-time visitors is, “I can’t believe that something this professional is happening right here in Hannibal.”
Our Performance Space
We perform in an intimate 90-seat auditorium repurposed from the historic F&M Bank Building at 212 Broadway in downtown Hannibal. The seats were salvaged from Hannibal High School’s auditorium during a 1990’s renovation and feature distinctive art-deco metal work.
The acoustics in our auditorium are such that no seat is more than 20 feet from the stage and most theatrical performances require no amplification.
We also maintain a 1,000 square foot annex located at 403 Broadway which is used for meetings, rehearsals and opening-night events and is also made available for commercial rentals or free to other non-profit organizations.
Our Board of Directors
An organizations is only as strong as the people behind it and at BCT we have been fortunate to have attracted some of the best and brightest talent in the region. Chairperson Kathleen Haycraft inherited the gavel in 2017 when founding chair Todd Ahrens retired. Directors are elected for three-year terms and may be reelected for three terms, a total of nine years. Below is the 2021 Board of Directors:
As a 501C-3 charitable corporation, we have a duty to ensure that as many of the dollars we raise each year are used to further core artistic programs. The Executive Director and all board members serve in a voluntary capacity, without compensation. Only actors, technicians and educational personnel are compensated, on a fee-for-service contract basis.
But, mounting and executing a professional theater takes much more than just the people on stage. Consequently, we rely on our large pool of volunteers (75 at last count!) to fill in the gaps wherever possible.
Some examples of volunteer opportunities are:
- Assistance at performances-ushering, bartending, ticket-taking
- Fundraiser Gala assistance-setup, cleanup, decorations, prize acquisition, serving
Youth Program Supervision and Chaperoning
- Actor and Directors Hosting- Can you provide housing to a visiting professional for up to 4 weeks?
- Graphics and artwork creation-online, creative, marketing support
- Fundraising assistance- use your contacts in the community to help us raise support
- Audience Development- help build audience through word-of-mouth, telephone support, events
For more information on how YOU can volunteer, please call the theater at 573-719-3226 or complete the form here.
Get In Touch
We love to hear from our supporters and audience members. Please use the form below to contact us for any reason and we’ll get right back to you.