Footlighters, Inc. was established in 1963 by a small group of community theatre volunteers who wanted to bring theatre opportunities to the western side of Cincinnati.
For the first 24 years, the group performed in area highschool auditoriums, eventually settling at Westwood Town Hall in the late 1970's, where they continued to produce two shows a year. A high point for the group came in 1977 when the show What's a Nice Country Doing in a State Like This? won regional, state and national competitions. The group was invited to represent the Festival of American Community Theatres at the international festival in Monaco. Until 1986 Footlighters rented its performance and rehearsal space. With rising costs, Footlighters decided it was time to look for a permanent home.
Also in 1986, Newport's Salem United Methodist Church, recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, had been damaged by a tornado on March 10th. The storm put a hole in the steeple, ripped shingles off the roof, and damaged one of the stained glass windows. Debris from the steeple crashed through the building to the basement, taking the 2nd floor electrical system with it. Damage estimates at the time were $210,000. The church congregation capped the steeple, repaired the holes and removed the debris, but due to a decrease in membership and a great deal left to repair, they felt it would be best to merge with another Methodist congregation, and put the church up for sale. Built in 1882, the church was designed by Samuel Hannaford, who also designed Cincinnati's City Hall and Music Hall.
After receiving approval from the City of Newport, and blessings from the congregation, a small group of Footlighters pooled their resources for a down-payment on the property. Moving in, in 1987, the building was renamed the Stained Glass Theatre. The goal was to establish a theatre and art center that would provide a performance space for Footlighters, as well as other area groups and artists. As the first theatre company in Newport, the group takes pride in being a pioneer of economic development in the community. The purchase of a new home for Footlighters was also a milestone in local community theatre history, and still distinguishes the group from others as only one of three groups that owns and performs in its own space.
Starting on the first floor, the group turned a 1931 gymnasium addition into a dance studio, and proceeds from dance classes went toward the funding efforts. Electrical and plumbing problems were addressed, bathrooms were renovated, a sprinkler system installed, walls and ceilings were repaired, scraped and painted, and a back stairwell was added to eventually lead up to the backstage area of the upstairs theatre. A 75 seat, first floor theatre was built, and opened its first season in November of 1988 with over 250 season ticket holders and sellout crowds for shows like A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum and Grease. Work then began on the second floor. A stage was built with an in-floor turntable, around an existing pipe organ. A raked seating area went in next, eventually holding 163 seats. As the Stained Glass Theatre was growing, the Edgecliff College Theatre was folding; their seating and lighting system were donated to Footlighters. With the lighting grid and system installed, as well as a sound system, the upstairs theatre opened in 1991 with Annie.
By 2004, the Stained Glass Theatre's lighting system was finally showing its age. At the same time, WCPO was moving into its new building on Gilbert to make way for an expanding Cincinnati Convention Center. Since a new lighting system was going into their new building, WCPO generously donated their old lighting system to the Stained Glass Theater. With a late-summer installation, the system was up and ready to go for the fall production of Gypsy.