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Greenville Little Theatre:
Then and Now

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 Greenville 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.



As the curtain rises on Act II, World War II is 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 plays 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, Jr. 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.

For more information, call the GLT Box Office at (864) 233-6238 or email us at
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