By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
Beck Center for the Arts has a legacy that spans 90 years. Lakewood resident and Beck Center President Lucinda “Cindy” Einhouse spearheaded the efforts to preserve its history in book form, a task that became a labor of love.
“I’ve had a lifelong passion for the arts and a commitment to the Greater Cleveland community which I brought to my current role as president and CEO of Beck Center for the Arts. Having started on May 1, 2007, this is my 15th anniversary here,” Einhouse said.
“My educational background includes an MBA from Cleveland State University and a BA in music from Kent State University. I began my career at the Playhouse Square Foundation in 1980, building an annual fund program and assisting with a capital campaign to raise $37.7 million to renovate the historic Playhouse Square theaters,” she noted. “In 1995, I was recruited to the Cleveland Clinic as part of the management team to conduct a $225 million capital campaign, which concluded ahead of schedule in 2000. In 2001, I was recruited to the Cleveland Institute of Music to direct a capital campaign to raise $40 million for facilities expansion and endowment, successfully completed in Sept., 2006.”
“I joined the board of Beck Center in Oct., 2006 and was asked to help on a search committee to find a new president and CEO. After suggesting some good candidates, they said I was the one they were really interested in. I knew that the organization had deep financial challenges, but the programming was, and still is, fantastic and mattered so much to the community. I remembered that I had thought in college that I wanted to run an arts organization someday, and I thought the connections I had built over the years could be helpful, so I took the risk,” Einhouse added.
“Over the past 15 years, I have worked closely with the staff and board of directors to stabilize the organization’s finances and increase its visibility and engagement with the community. From 2007 to 2020, the number of people served by Beck Center has grown 30 percent to over 60,000 across five counties, with a $6,700,000 capital campaign underway as of 2022,” she said.
“In thinking about the upcoming 90th season in 2023, I started looking through Beck Center’s archives for materials for a history wall display. Although there were stacks of things, very disorganized, I could tell there were many treasures there showing the generations of people who have come through these doors for arts experiences. It was a story waiting to be told,” she said.
Einhouse said she assembled a team of history lovers to sort out information, discover treasures, do research and share ideas. “I knew the team had to be small, but mighty. I first reached out to my dear friend and board member Sandy Sauder who loves history and used to be a publicist. This was at the end of April, 2021. I put together an outline and started researching how to publish a book. I joined the Facebook author’s group and some members suggested self-publishing on Amazon KDP,” she explained.
“Next, I connected with another board member, Kathleen McGorray, in mid-May, 2021, because she is a retired educator and also on the board of the Lakewood Historical Society. We quickly realized that we needed the institutional memory of long-time board member Rosemary Corcoran, as well as the longest-tenured employee and faculty member Lynda Sackett. We met on Friday mornings between May, 2021 and Jan., 2022 to rummage through the archives, edit drafts and share ideas,” she said.
“Most of the materials came from file cabinets and boxes on the third floor of Beck Center’s administration area. I started calling it, ‘The Archives,’ just to give it more internal respect. There were decades of theater playbills, youth theater and dance production promotional materials, educational promotional pieces, tens of thousands of photos, slides, DVDs and VHS tapes. It was a bit overwhelming, but I had a wonderful college intern during the summer of 2021 who sorted out all of the playbills and put them in chronological order, which helped me find the oldest ones and others that occurred at milestone times of the organization,” Einhouse noted. “One of the greatest finds was a stack of transcripts of interviews that were done in the 1990s. Board members during that time had put together a committee to write the history and interviewed people who had a long association with the organization at that time, 30 years ago. The book never got written, but the transcripts remained and there were some good nuggets there.”
“Another great find were scrapbooks that the Women’s Board had put together during the 1930s through the 1970s, including many copies of old articles that were fascinating,” she said. “I spent a lot of time getting permission from appropriate sources to use photos and reprints of articles. There were so many people who helped provide information along the way, and I have acknowledged them in Chapter 13 of the book.”
According to Einhouse, there were numerous events and milestones that stood out while writing the history. “One of the most serendipitous moments was in September, 2021, when Beck Center was contacted by someone who was researching family history and wanted more information about ‘Lakewood Little Theatre.’ It turns out that this person is a member of the family of the founding director Richard Kay, and they gave me a wonderful photo of the very first production in 1931.”
She noted that Beck Center is particularly proud of its notably long history of youth theater education and performances. Although the culture of the education program was and still is to teach valuable life skills as opposed to creating stars, many Beck alumni have developed successful movie and television careers, including Michael Chernus, Rachel G. Fox, and Rory O’Malley. “The history of Beck Center is still in the making,” she added.
The collectable coffee table paperback book is 196 pages in length, with full-color photos starting with an explanation about the country’s “Little Theatre Movement,” the early days of the organization “The Guild of the Masques, to the evolution of Lakewood Little Theatre and the education programs through to the present day. Vital collaborations and historic news articles are included along with vibrant production shots of plays and musicals throughout the years. Stories of challenges and triumphs abound and the birth of many of Beck Center’s stars, especially in theater and dance, are regaled. Available for $29.95 exclusively on Amazon.com, the book is printed and delivered on-demand.
“All of the proceeds go directly into Beck Center’s endowment. I want to ensure the future of Beck Center for the Arts for the next 90 years,” Einhouse noted.
Beck Center for the Arts book spans its 90-year history
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN