Spotlight Youth Theater began as an affiliate of a Christian youth theater organization based in San Diego in 1981. After years of involvement in that program, Tom and Bonnie Bienert moved from San Diego to the Chicago area in 1995. The Bienert family proposed to become the first affiliate of that program outside of California. They asked Justin Parks to join their team as Artistic Director.
In 1997 the trio kicked off that initial program with a small touring show based in Crystal Lake called Disney Spectacular, featuring a cast of 21 students. As a result, the program grew to 110 students in the first session of classes, and the first full scale production drew nearly 3,000 patrons.
In 1998, after viewing a production, several families from Lake County, including the Allen, Balasa, Anderson, Contreras and Plumberg families, invited Justin Parks to help them produce a small Christmas musical, Arch the Angel. It was from that original group of 30 kids that a summer camp program was established, and in 1999, Lake County Spotlight kicked off its first session and a full-scale production.
A few years later, the Svoboda and Church families inquired about bringing a program closer to their homes in Northwest Cook County. Soon after, a camp program was implemented at Cutting Hall, and by the fall of 2001, Northwest Cook was opened under their leadership with a production of Annie.
Year after year families have stepped up and asked the same question "How do I bring youth theater to my community?" Families like the Gawliks and Scheeles in Kane County; The Duvalls and Libbys in DuPage; The Miller family in Rockford; The Molicas and O'Neills in Aurora; Sonia Noreiga in Oak Park; The Olsen family in Kenosha, WI and the Walla Family in Milwaukee.
In May of 2012, the board of directors for the organization agreed that, to better serve the students and families of our organization, the license agreement with the national organization we had been affiliated with could not be extended. This brought on the need for a name change. It was decided that Spotlight Youth Theater would be our new name, with the mission statement of Reflecting Christ through Performing Arts . It is the goal of Spotlight to teach, grow, and mentor students all over the nation while instilling Christ's values and message.