After a period of "dark years," a new group was formed. It was 1936, and in the depression recovery, the Works Progress Administration created numerous theatre companies across the country. In Pensacola, it was the Civic Drama Players, incorporated one year later as the Pensacola Little Theatre (PLT).
PLT's first performances were held in the old Chamber of Commerce auditorium before moving to Pensacola High School. Rehearsals continued in the Chamber's auditorium until 1950, when the rear of the building collapsed. While Pensacola High School's stage was still home for performances…rehearsal and storage space were another problem.
It was 1949 when the Board of Directors finally met to discuss the possibility of a permanent home for the PLT. A fund drive was initiated, plans were drawn up, and by August of 1951, with a $20,000 loan to match funds on hand, the Federal Government gave permission to build an auditorium. In January 1952, the first production in the new theater was ready. Three years later, a $15,000 loan was procured for the purpose of additional construction to the original Quonset. New wings provided two new dressing rooms, a rehearsal hall and stage, costume and prop storage, rooms for paint and electrical equipment as well as a new shop.
Through the American Red Cross and the Recreation Department at the Naval Station, a certain number of seats were made available to patients at the Naval Hospital. Then, as now, many of the participants, backstage and on stage, were active duty personnel, including members of their family. This tradition is still very much alive today.
During the early 1970s, the Quonset that had served so faithfully at PLT's home deteriorated so badly that the Fire Commissioners demanded installation of a sprinkler system and several other major improvements which would require a sizable capital outlay. In 1977, the Quonset was sold and the old Florida Movie House at North Palafox was reopened as Pensacola Little Theatre.
PLT was still in need of a permanent home. Through a commissioned study, the group found that 24 nonprofit arts organizations in the community had similar needs. Having convinced the Escambia County Commissioners that a central location with space and facilities for existing and new arts groups was needed, PLT was deeded the Escambia County Court of Record Building and Jail. Built in 1911, the abandoned landmark was readapted to become the Pensacola Cultural Center.
In January 1996, Phase 3, the theater, was completed and the Pensacola Little Theatre finally had a glorious home to call its own. The state-of-the-art theater has 474 seats over three floors, each with an unobstructed view of the stage. The PLT features at least 6 performances of 6 plays in the Mainstage Season and local high schools are given opportunities to perform as part of the Schools on Stage program. The theater is also rented out for various events and in 1999, a children's theater was established under PLT called the Treehouse Theatre with a full season of its own.
In an effort to expand PLT programming, the Courtroom serves as a studio theater for a third season of plays under the PLT umbrella called Chamber Theatre. Acting classes as well as all rehearsals are held in the Rehearsal Hall. PLT also sponsors a traveling outreach program, POP Tour, and an acting program at the Pensacola Boys Base, a facility for at-risk youth.
Thousands of volunteers help make the Pensacola Little Theatre what it is today, but special recognition must go to the PLT Guild. With service to PLT for more than 20 years, the Guild members volunteer their time in the box office, stuffing programs, ushering, holding fundraiser's, and getting the word out about PLT. The Guild was instrumental in initiating a plan to have a Green Room in the Cultural Center. With many fundraiser's, including the assistance of local interior designers, the Green Room soon became a reality - beautifully decorated and a true highlight of the facility.
PLT has long been the area's leader in quality Community Theater. Volunteers from all walks of life and all generations have banded together to bring Pensacola the very best PLT has to offer. Theater cannot die because it has the ageless appeal of magic. The stage is a magic mirror in which life is reflected in a manner closer to our heart's desire than reality. Several productions remain on this year’s agenda. Coming in May and running from the 12th through the 14th and the 19th through the 21st, I Remember Mama.
Mama, with the help of her husband and Uncle Chris, bring up their children in their modest San Francisco house during the early years of the 20th century. Mama, a sweet and capable manager, sees her children through childhood, manages to educate them and to see one of her daughters begin her career as a writer. Mama's sisters and Uncle furnish a rich background for a great deal of comedy and a little incidental tragedy, while the doings of the children manage to keep everyone in pleasant turmoil.
Written by James Van Druten and based on Kathryn Forbes' autobiographical memoir, I REMEMBER MAMA was filmed and released by RKO in 1949 starring Irene Dunne as Mama and Barbara Bel Geddes as Katrine. The film proved so popular that it was then made into a weekly television series that ran on CBS from 1949 to 1957 and starred Peggy Wood in the title role.
1776 is coming in June and running from the 16th to the 18th and from the 23rd to the 25th. This seminal event in American history blazes to vivid life in a most unconventional Broadway hit. It is the summer of 1776, and the nation is ready to declare independence...if only our founding fathers can agree to do it! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they attempt to convince the members of the second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence. It is a stirring production with music sure to please everyone. Large portions of spoken and sung dialog are taken directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants.
Be sure to catch the end of the Pensacola Little Theatre 2006 season and make plans in 2007 to catch one of their fabulous productions! Now in its 80th year, the PLT just keeps getting better and better! For such a “little” theatre, it’s one of Pensacola’s biggest attractions!
For more information please call 850.432.2042 or send an email to [email protected]