Visit website 906 W Racine St, Janesville, WI 53548
Janesville Little Theatre is the oldest community theater in Wisconsin and has been bringing the best of Broadway to area audiences for over 80 years. Our story begins 82 years ago in June 1929. The first meeting was called by Malcolm Mouat and Mary (Mrs.Stow) Lovejoy and was held in the Lovejoy home. Present were Hiram & Dolly Nowlan, Ernie & Bess Rost, John & Jessica Gross, Josephine Connors, Mrs. M.H. "Ty" Fitzgerald, Miss Emily Moeser, Mr. Leslie Minter, and Mrs. Daisy Belle Munn, (who was to become the "Grande Dame" of the theatre) had been invited but was away at the time. Among the first officers of Janesville Little Theatre was Malcolm Mouat as President and Emily Moeser Minter as Secretary At that first meeting it was decided that the group should be open to all consequently they decided to call a public meeting to attempt to interest as wide a segment of people as possible in the project. They also appointed Nowland and Mouat to draw up a meeting agenda and to invite Professor William C. Troutman, an expert on theatre organization at U.W. Madison to speak at a future meeting. The first public meeting was held at the Women’s Building around August 1, 1929.
From the desire for a workable democratic organization, those at the August meeting decided the key was an elected Board of Directors. They determined that each individual who purchased a season ticket would become a voting member of the theatre. This membership would elect sixteen people to create a Board of Directors. Those sixteen elected members would choose sixteen additional members for the Board. 82 years of longevity attests to the success of this basic plan, although the number of Board Members has been reduced as a thirty two member board was somewhat impractical.
The care with which Janesville Little Theatre was organized probably contributed most to its initial success, but there were also other factors. The stock market crash of 1929 which led to the great depression was both a curse and a blessing to Little Theatre; it left people short on money but long on time. Casts and crews had ample time to devote to theatre work and the public was looking for a relatively inexpensive entertainment. Season memberships at the time were $1.00 and remained at that price until World War II when the governments “entertainment tax” caused an increase to $1.20. However to get the theatre started on a sound financial basis, Nowland and Mouat were appointed by the Board to solicit loans of $50.00 each from ten local businessmen. They were so successful that they overshot their mark and collected $560.00 by the fall of 1929. On June 4, 1934 the theatre repaid the debt in full.
The first play selected for performance by Janesville Little Theatre was The New Lady Bantock which was staged in the spring of 1930 in the auditorium of Marshall High School in what is now the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Unfortunately, not much is known about the production. The second production was Sir James Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton, on the other hand, was recalled vividly by many people at the time. Jim Gage led the large cast in the role of Crichton in the play, an ambitious undertaking for the fledgling theatre: large cast, elaborate costumes, and multiple sets. They did have several advantages: time, enthusiasm, and a director, Leslie Minter, who was an Englishman. The play was successful and left the group unafraid to tackle difficult and challenging material provided it had popular appeal which remains one of the criteria for play selection to this day.
Another goal which the founding group established was Janesville Little Theatre’s sense of service to the community. From 1931 to 1945 the theatre presented many free performances of children’s theatre such as “When Toys Talk” and “Hilltop” and performed many children’s plays each season. World War II ended the practice and the advent of television precluded its resumption. Free performances for the elderly and infirmed have remained part of this service tradition which began Feb. 4th 1931 at Pinehurst Sanitarium with the final dress rehearsal performance of one of the season’s productions and continues to present day with the elderly, infirmed and people of limited means invited to final dress rehearsals.
All performances are held at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, 408 S Main St. Phone 758-0297 for reservations or further information.
Auditions and rehearsals are held at the Janesville Little Theatre Workshop, 906 W Racine St.
Janesville Little Theatre auditions are always open to all interested persons. Experience may be helpful but is absolutely not necessary. In addition to acting parts, crew members are needed for makeup, costumes, set design and construction, set decoration, lights, sound, props, stage management and much more.
- Wheelchair accessibility
- Local establishment
- Phone: 608-752-4084
- Alternate Phone: 608-752-5300
To order tickets call 608-758-0297 or stop at the Janesville Performing Arts Center Box Office at 408 S Main St, ...
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Janesville Little Theatre relies on the generous support of its members. While JLT is still mostly sustained through ticket sales, ...