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Our history

Kaleidoscope Theatre was founded in 1977 and achieved 501(c)3 status the following year. From 1979 to 1981, Kaleidoscope hit the local airwaves with its own television series on channel 12, the then-ABC affiliate in Providence. Kaleidoscope Theatre aired a half-hour family musical every Saturday and Sunday morning to the delight of families in the greater Rhode Island area.


One viewer, Buster Bonoff, was the owner of the Warwick Musical Theatre in Warwick, RI. He was so pleased with what he saw, that he gave the company the opportunity to perform a season of live fairytale musicals the following summer. The first show, Little Red Ridinghood, only had half a house, but the second show, Mother Goose, sold out! The third and final show, Pinocchio, was so packed, that the show was held for 20 minutes!


The following summer, Kaleidoscope was booked into two more venues: the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, MA and the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT. As summers passed, Kaleidoscope gained more and more new venues, and wrote more and more new shows, all written by our Executive Director, David G. Payton. 

Prior to this, in 1978, Kaleidoscope Theatre toured educational shows to elementary and middle schools throughout the New England area. One of the first school-touring shows, “I’m Special – You’re Special,” is perhaps the company’s greatest success story. This show is about the inclusion (mainstreaming) of a boy with Down Syndrome into a regular school. The show was so well received by its audiences, that Kaleidoscope Theatre partnered with the ARC (Association of Retarded Citizens) nationally to tour “I’m Special…” to schools throughout the country from Maine to Texas, and bring the show to three national conventions, two national congresses, as well as an international Down Syndrome conference in Jerusalem, Israel.


Kaleidoscope Theatre’s other school-touring shows have enjoyed much success as well, dealing with a broad range of topics, such as: drug dependence, drug prevention/elimination issues, teen pregnancy, autism, deafness, divorce, bullying, physical handicaps, and the environment. The environmental show, “The Seababies,” taught audiences to save today’s resources for future generations, and was performed at the White House Easter celebration in 1996. 

In the early 1990’s, Kaleidoscope Theatre began presenting original dinner theatre murder mysteries as fundraisers for the Rhode Island Special Olympics. These events were so successful, that the shows were booked into local restaurants. To this day, Kaleidoscope still performs dinner theatre murder mysteries at restaurants throughout New England and frequently is invited to perform for fundraisers, private parties, as well as at casinos, conventions, and corporate functions. 

Over the past 30 years, Kaleidoscope Theatre has received many honors and awards, including most recently, the title of Rhode Island’s Best Children’s Theatre from RI Monthly magazine. Other awards the company has received include a Rhode Island Theatre Achievement Award, a Rhode Island Jefferson Award, and several awards from the ARC, including a Community Service Award, a Community Awareness Award, a Service Accomplishment Award, and the Lilian Miller award for Outstanding Leadership by a Volunteer.

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