The curtain goes up. It is March 5, 1836 and Andrew
Jackson is the President of the United States. The Theatrical Corps, forerunner
of the Little Theatre, presents its first performance to a cheering, full
house. The ladies of the Episcopal Society present the only other theatrical
offerings in Greenville until 1910.
In 1926 the “Little Theatre” comes to
in the form of the Greenville Artists' Guild. Seventy-five devoted
men and women work together in an effort to "develop the art, culture and
drama which for so long has lain dormant among Greenville folks." Two short
years later, this dedicated band has increased to one hundred in number
and is renamed the "Community Little Theatre" and later, the "Greenville
Little Theatre." It presents one to four plays in any available auditorium
boasting a stage. Directors are amateur volunteers.
In 1936, Furman University drama professors Harold
Baker Shaw and Arthur Coe Gray assume the roles of Artistic Directors.
Plays are now presented in the Fine Arts Auditorium of the Women's College,
then located on GLT's present site on Heritage Green.
The show goes on until 1941 when the United States'
entry into world conflict ends all activities and brings down the curtain.
INTERMISSION -5 YEARS
As the curtain rises on Act II, World War II
over, and the Greenville Little Theatre has reorganized. On May 2,
1946, the audience cheers the opening night performance of "I Remember
Mama" presented in the Greenville High School auditorium. In the cast is
a young high school girl of whom one critic said, "I don't know what Joanne
Woodward's ambitions are, but she is a born actress."
Mr. Robert H. McLane, head of the Speech, Art
and Drama Departments at Greenville High agrees to direct the forthcoming
of the Little Theatre. With an increased membership demanding four
performances of each play, it becomes difficult to schedule dates. The
perfect solution comes in the purchase of an Air Force Glider Base movie theatre
on Lowndes Hill Road, vacant since the end of the war. Greenville
responds generously, raising $25,000 for renovations and giving countless
hours of volunteer work in making a permanent home for our theatre.
Mr. McLane accepts the full-time directorship,
and on March 4, 1948, the doors swing wide as 450 first-nighters enter
the new home of the Greenville Little Theatre to see the opening performance
of "Angel Street." The theatre flourishes for the next two decades, gaining
a national reputation.
With insufficient storage space, more artistic
productions featuring larger casts and steady increases in memberships,
the need for expansion of facilities becomes imperative.
1967 - 1989
On April 11, 1967, the Greenville Little Theatre
stages a spectacular opening with the Lerner-Lowe musical, "Camelot," in
its new $800,000 building on the site of the former Fine Arts building
of the Woman's College. It is chosen to be a showcase for two professional
world premiere productions, "Will Rogers, USA" starring James Whitmore
and "Eleanor" starring Eileen Heckart. In 1976, Joanne Woodward graciously
offers to appear in the theatre's production of "The Glass Menagerie."
This time she stars as the mother, having appeared as the daughter in the
1949 Lowndes Hill production. The house is sold out for every performance. With
ticket sales and a special benefit reception, enough funds are received to retire
the theatre's building debt.
Mr. McLane retires in 1975. J. Lake Williams,
accepts the role of Artistic Director and his first offering is "The Lion
in Winter" in the spring of 1976. He continues until 1987
From 1987 to 1990, after Mr. Williams' retirement,
interim directors Randy Thompson (who assisted Mr. Williams during his
tenure) and Ron Culbreth, carry on for almost three years with no full-time
director and no long-range goals.
In 1990 the theatre appoints a new Artistic Director,
and the theatre changes its mission. The theatre's new vision is to become
a regional theatre and is renamed "Theatre on the Green." Unfortunately,
this vision does not complement the patrons' wishes. The Artistic Director
resigns in September of 1992, and the rest of the season features guest
directors, including a former Greenville native, Mr. Allen McCalla.
Mr. McCalla guest directs "The New Odd Couple" (female version) which is
a hit with the audience.
1993 - The Present
Allen McCalla is appointed Artistic Director in
1993. Allen brings considerable professional experience to the position,
having performed and/or directed in eight different states and worked with
some of America's top theatre professionals in some of the most prestigious
regional theatres in the country. His equally talented wife, Suzanne, also
joins the team as Associate Director. The McCallas immediately bring professional
quality back to the theatre; at the same time they reaffirm the mission
of the theatre by showcasing the talented, amateur performers of the Upstate,
and producing mainstream family-oriented musicals and plays. With a string
of hits including "Guys and Dolls," "Fiddler on the Roof," "South Pacific,"
"Oliver! ," "Anything Goes," "Beehive," "Damn Yankees," and "Oklahoma!",
the theatre is back on track. In May of 1994, the theatre holds a gala
and changes the name back to the "Greenville Little Theatre."
Subscriptions and audience attendance are up, and so is, once again, the
spirit of the Greenville Little Theatre.