In 1945 a group of people met for dinner at the Cleveland Hotel to form a literary club. This club became the Little Theatre of Spartanburg at a meeting on June 21, 1946 in the Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Catholic Church. The first officers elected were Dr. J.M. Wallace, President; Mr. John Carrington, Vice-President; Mrs. Jameston Fant, Secretary; and Mr. Jameston Fant, Treasurer. Meetings were held at the Herald-Journal building and Jenkins Junior High School to hear lectures on various phases of theatre and to perform one-act plays. Interest and membership increased rapidly, and in November of 1946, the first one-act play, Candlelight, by P.G. Wodehouse, opened at the City Recreation Hall, directed by Mrs. Dan Mitro.
David W. Reid of Milford, Mass., who had served at Camp Croft during the war, returned to Spartanburg as the public relations director at Converse College. He directed the second play, The Late Christopher Bean. Until his retirement in 1982 he served as director, producer, and actor. Stage manager, scenic designer and actor for most of the same years was Ed McGrath. The Little Theatre production staff has included such notables as Henry Janiec, John Mabry, Pat Dillard and Gary McCraw in the music department, Barbara Ferguson and Marianna Miller as choreographers, and Rene Royaards on lights.
In 1949, the Spartanburg County Foundation made the movie theater at Camp Croft available to the theatre for a lease of one dollar per year. The first play at the new location was The Man Who Came to Dinner in 1950; and the first musical was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro in 1953. With this show, the Little Theatre was honored by being permitted the first non-professional production of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. With its success, the Little Theatre was allowed the first non-professional production of Carousel the following season. On October 23, 1978, the County Foundation deeded the theatre and grounds to the Little Theatre. Through the years, many improvements and additions to the building were made through the generosity of the County Foundation, the Junior League, the Friends of the Arts and area corporations. In 1982, it was named the David W. Reid Playhouse.
The Little Theatre is the proud sponsor of The Spartanburg Youth Theatre (the second oldest theatre for youth in the state). Since 1973, it has performed for some 300,000 Spartanburg County young people under the direction of Mary Nicholson. In June of 2008, after 35 years, Mary Nicholson retired.
The Little Theatre and Youth Theatre are both largely volunteer organizations. They retain a full time professional staff, and use professionals for guest directors, musical directors, musicians and choreographers. The annual season typically features four Little Theatre and four Youth Theatre productions.
After 50 years and countless productions on the stage at the Camp Croft Playhouse The Spartanburg Little Theatre moved to the new Chapman Cultural Center in September 2007. The administrative offices of The Spartanburg Little Theatre and The Spartanburg Youth Theatre were moved to the Chapman Center at the same time.
On September 13, 1970 in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Little Theatre, an article was published in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, which perhaps says it best: "The actors behind the stage and on it are legion. Young, old, men, women, and children who, for a few short hours, bring to life the magic and glamour of an art as old as man himself – for them a special place is reserved in the heart of Spartanburg’s Little Theatre. It is only through their untiring efforts that the show will go on – an on – and on."
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