History of the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre
Early History (1920’s and 1930’s)
The Drama League (or Club) opened its first season in 1923 with the production of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Elephant’s Child”, directed by Mollie Weston Kent. The original location for the theater was what is now Coughlin High School in Wilkes-Barre.
The League was renamed in 1928 to the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre and incorporated as a non-profit, 501(c) 3 Corporation by decree of Judge Valentine on June 17, 1929. At that time the members, incorporators, and directors included Bernard F. Burgunder, Brandon A. Gearhart, Mrs. Fredrick Hillman, Mrs. Simon Long, Todd Rippard, Raijean Breese, Mrs. Franck G. Darte, Annette Evans, Mrs. Hugh Jenkins, Mrs. Ernest G. Smith, Daniel W. Davis, and Leonard W. Parkhurst.
Throughout the 20’s and 30’s, “little theatres” became popular places for development of professionalism and fostering self-expression with new plays and talents. The Drama League was no exception to this.
Mid History (1950’s-1970’s)
Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre made its home at the 537 N. Main Street Playhouse in 1957, after being purchased in 1956. In 1972, the Pennsylvania Theatre Association approved the building for production after an interest in the splendid stage and equipment facilities. The current lighting board was a gift from Dorothy Dickson Darte, one of our founders, and was specially built by Fuchs, an expert, and author on stage lighting. Annette Evans provided the current stage curtains, and her foundation has provided grants for Little Theatre, one of her favorite “children”, over the years since her death. In addition, many other foundations and grant sources have been very generous over the years.
Since 1923, Little Theatre has reached over two million people, presenting hundreds of productions. It is one of the longest continuously running community theatres in the United States and is still ranked among the 10 best “little theatre” groups. A charter member of American National Theatre and Academy, Little Theatre has always tried to reach across the nation to collaborate with other theatrical groups, traveling to perform at other venues as well as welcoming traveling players finding their way to Wilkes-Barre. Famous actors and actresses have visited and performed on our stage. We love show business—and know that this love must be shared to be enjoyed. The members of Little Theatre look back with pride at our rich history of performers and productions and look forward to many more seasons of quality productions.
In recent years, entertainment choices have increased tremendously, both in live theatre venues and at home, through online services. Our area has seen many community theatres blossom and host national touring companies. Through all this, Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre remains committed to showcasing the best local talent in musicals, comedies, and dramas. All our musical productions feature a live local orchestra. We are delighted to hear wonderful comments from our audiences, including strong reviews from nationally-known scholars and critics.