Our Story

On August 20, 1999, a performance of Neil Simon's 'Rumors' opened for an audience of 55 people at 111 Arch Street in Searcy, Arkansas, and a great tradition began impacting a small town.  
Opening a dinner theater in a town of 14,000 people proved to be an adventure for founder, Lana Hallmark, who had recently retired from teaching drama at Searcy High School.  As the proprietor of a for-profit organization, Hallmark directed shows and organized caterers for nearly four years before she invited community leaders to participate with her in further developing the organization.  In April of 2003, the non-profit 501(c)(3) Performing Arts Center on the Square began with a board of twelve members.  Hallmark was named Executive Director and continued to shoulder most of the responsibilities for running the business and the productions until 2011.   
Center on the Square now has volunteer directors, three part-time paid staff positions, as well as a Board of Directors.  The Board directs administrative functions, fundraising activities, special events, and orchestrated the purchase and renovation of a new facility in 2012.  See our "Our Staff and Board" page for more about our leaders.
Center on the Square offers dinner theater shows, matinees with lunch and musicals utilizing local talent, directors and volunteers from Searcy and White County, but also from Batesville, Heber Springs, and Conway, giving participants an opportunity to study and grow in their knowledge and theater experience.  In addition to the regular season schedule, Center on the Square offers children's shows as well as a children's acting program.  Kidstage began in the summer of 2000 with eight students, and now is a year-round program serving nearly 150 students per year and producing three children's shows each year.  The program has attracted the attention of one of Searcy's largest businesses, Land O'Frost, which has made a long-term commitment to support the program.  Children from 2nd grade - 12th grade are split into age appropriate groups where they learn basic stage instruction as well as set building, costuming, stage make-up and lighting.  Each class culminates in a production in which every child participates. 
Local businesses have supported the efforts of Center on the Square and its contribution to the overall quality of life in the region by sponsoring shows and events, purchasing advertising, and promoting the productions to their employees.  Several companies and civic groups have their Christmas parties at the theater with the group enjoying dinner and a show together.  "My introduction to the theater came from my husband's company Christmas party in December of 2000," said Carla Fuller,  Board Chair, "and since then I've joined the Board, served three terms as Chair, fundraised, acted, directed, and now renovated a building for this institution that I've grown to love."  One of the Center's goals is to create experiences people never forget, and a company Christmas party is a great way to do that.     

Since its inception, Center on the Square has become a Searcy tradition, a place to meet new people, develop friendships, be entertained, entertain others, and give back to the community.  The Board of Directors is honored to serve this region of the state by sustaining the performing arts for everyone to enjoy. 


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