All aboard CTE’s orphan train for an original musical that examines the plight of the 200,000 children who were relocated throughout the U.S.


Children's Theatre of Elgin • 1700 Spartan Drive, VPAC 141A • Elgin, Illinois 60123 

Jan. 4, 2008 (Elgin, Ill.) — From 1854 through 1929, an estimated 200,000 children from NewYork City were relocated to destinations throughout the United States, its territories, and Canada. As part of its 20th season celebration, Children’s Theatre of Elgin in April will present Placing Out, an original Broadway-style musical that will explore the 75 years of the “orphan train.” All performances will be at the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin. Placing Out begins after the Civil War and follows a group of children from the streets of New York City through a number of stops along the railroad routes to, ultimately, the care of families who were willing to receive them. 

The musical was conceived and created by Elgin’s David Akemann. Christine Tosun of Sleepy Hollow wrote much of the actual script and worked with David Akemann and Peter Akemann, also of Elgin, to compose the lyrics for the work’s 12 original songs. World-renowned composer Daniel Brewbaker, originally of Elgin, wrote the music. Peter Akemann will serve as director; David Akemann will produce.  

“The idea for Placing Out evolved from some historical information that my wife, Vickie, an elementary school teacher for School District U-46, showed me,” said David. “I was quite moved by the stories and became intrigued by the possibility of having CTE cast members portray children who have nothing and no one except each other to get by with in circumstances that we cannot comprehend.” 

The orphan train project was started by the Rev. Charles Loring Brace through the Children’s Aid Society of New York. The first trains ran in 1854 and continued until 1929. From 1854 until 1910, the organization reported having taken 106,245 children across the United States and Canada. Illinois reported the highest number of children placed outside of New York at 9,172. The program continued for 19 more years with more than 150,000 children having been “placed out.” At least six other agencies in the U.S. also used this method of helping orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children. All together, an estimated 200,000 children were relocated through these various programs; today, more than 2,000,000 million of their descendants live in the U.S. 

 “I think David developed an idea that will help tell a story that needs to be told about a little-known but significant portion of American history,” said Peter Akemann. David and Peter, who are identical twins, co-founded CTE in the summer of 1988. Today they serve

as the organization’s secretary and president, respectively. David and Peter grew up in Elgin and were childhood friends with Daniel Brewbaker, who also shares the same birthday with the Akemanns. On one of their recent birthdays, David spoke to Daniel about his idea for Placing Out. Daniel, who was somewhat aware of the story through the process of composing a choral piece for the Children’s Aid Society, agreed to compose the musical’s score.

“This project will bring together a variety of different elements — large chorus numbers, soulsearching ballads, a dance number, and fun children’s songs,” Peter Akemann said.  

“It will be an educational process for the cast and for audience members of all ages, and will bring together a great group of people who will be fun to work with.” 

“We have a great organization that has served the children and youth of our city and surrounding communities for 20 years teaming up with a world-class composer who graduated with the Akemanns from Elgin High School in 1969,” said Elgin City Councilman Michael Powers. “This will truly be a great event for our city and for its reputation as a center for the arts.” 

Children's Theatre of Elgin and Fox Valley Theatre Company are in-residence at the Elgin Community College Arts Center. Support for Placing Out is coming from the City of Elgin, Elgin Community College/Visual and Performing Arts Center, Grand Victoria Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, and the Florence B. and Cornelius A. Palmer Foundation.  

This production will be performed for school groups and the public April 10-13 at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin, IL.  

School show performances will be at 9:30 a.m. and noon, Thursday and Friday, April 10-11 and a matinee performance on Saturday, April 11 at 2:00 pm. Tickets for these group performances are $5.00 each general admission and are available at 847-214-7550.  

Public performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 13. Ticket prices are $10 adults/$7 students & seniors. 

For more information about the show, visit 


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