The John Waldron Arts Center houses The James Downing Theatre, and an Arts Resource Center of plays, music, and scores. We are a grassroots group seeking out opportunities to foster community goodwill through artistic enrichment and by nurturing ties to the Edison Park and surrounding communities.
The John Waldron Arts Center is dedicated to the memory of John Waldron, a founding member of the Mt. Prospect Theatre Society. Involved in theatre most of his life, John received the Pioneer Press “Boonie” award for Best Supporting Actor. Also a lifelong educator, John was a teacher at Main South High School by day, and taught a youth acting class at night. John performed his final show in a staged reading of Love Letters in August 2005 with his wife, Linda, less than a month before his death of esophageal cancer.
The James Downing Theatre is dedicated to the memory of James Downing. Born in Edison Park in 1925, James began his studies in acting in 1946 after his discharge from the Navy. Jim attended Actors Company in Chicago and, in 1948, was the first non-Chinese director of the theatre in Chinatown. In 1949, Jim partnered with dance teacher Peggy Sommers, and they opened the Peggy Sommers Studio at 6705 N. Oshkosh. For the next 40 years, they team-directed hundreds of productions. Jim taught acting to many successful performers and directed and taught such people as Karen Black, Carrie Snodgrass, Howard Platt, and to a high school aged Hillary Rodham (later Clinton). The first show he directed with Peggy Sommers was in the Edison Park United Methodist Church in the original Fellowship Hall, in 1950. He continued to direct shows for the church through the 1980’s and was a member until his death in 2005.