Marblehead Little Theatre
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It is one of the oldest continually operating community theatres in the United States.
One success in 1955, by members of the drama committee of the Marblehead Woman's Club, ignited the desire to tackle bigger and better things. Encouraged by the response to a one-act play, The Charm Racquet, the women decided to next produce a three-act play and then went one step bolder by deciding to form a community theatre group.
Marblehead Little Theatre's first full-scale production was Moss Hart's Light up the Sky. While casting the show, it became evident that a much larger group was needed, and so, husbands, sons, daughters, and friends were enlisted. The show opened on January 18, 1956, at the Marblehead Junior High School Auditorium.
And so Marblehead Little Theatre (MLT) was born and now over five decades later has proven to be one of the oldest community theatre groups in New England as well as one of the few to have continually produced shows each year.
Throughout the 1950s, MLT held its main productions at the high school using the proscenium stage. As the group gained recognition, they were asked to perform at churches, charity functions, and veteran's hospitals and began including a number of one-act plays suitable for these occasions. MLT has also performed Leonardo da Vinci as a children's presentation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
By the 1960s, MLT was not only doing workshops such as J.B. and The Lady's Not For Burning, but they also ventured into the new theatre of the absurd with. Zoo Story and The Bald Soprano. In 1963, MLT was invited to participate in the Marblehead Arts Festival, performing two one-act plays on an outdoor stage.
A big leap was made in the mid-1960s by the decision to take the plunge and do a musical. They got their feet wet by presenting The Fantasticks with a cast of seven, minimal scenery and an orchestra consisting of a pianist, a harpist, and a percussionist. The show received such an enthusiastic reception that they were inspired to stage a full-scale musical, Pajama Game, in November 1965. The cast of forty came from all over the North Shore, with membership drawn from Salem, Swampscott, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly and Hamilton. This was a big production with 18 musical numbers, singing and dancing, many set changes and, most of all, a full orchestra which was presented at Salem State College's large auditorium and was a sell-out.
Since then, MLT has presented at least one musical production each year, which has become the hallmark of the group. The 1960s also saw MLT's entrance into the New England Theatre Conference Annual Community Theatre Drama Festival competition. During the 1960s MLT began awarding an annual scholarship to a member of the Marblehead High School graduating class who has participated in theatrical productions during high school as well as contributed in some way to Marblehead Little Theatre.
In 1970, MLT revived The Fantasticks and became a traveling group taking the show to Beverly for a benefit performance for the North Shore Community College. They also toured Endicott College, Arlington, Concord, and the Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute in Danvers.
Historic Abbot Hall became the setting for many musicals produced in the 1970s with the initial staging of Kiss Me Kate followed with superb performances of Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof, Brigadoon, Camelot, as well as productions for children of The Red Shoes and Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.
Perhaps the most memorable performance of the 1970s at Abbot Hall was opening night of the Bicentennial show of 1776. There were parties before and after the performance hosted by the Marblehead Bicentennial Commission in the Selectman's Meeting Room with the original Willard painting of the Spirit of '76 as a most appropriate and inspiring backdrop.
In the 1980s, MLT began staging their productions at the new Nelson Aldrich Performing Arts Center at the Marblehead High School with a seating capacity of 766 and a stage to rival the best of Boston's professional theater. The professionalism and quality of the two major musicals staged yearly greatly enhanced the growing reputation of MLT as a high caliber community theatre. Audiences flocked to see such productions as The Music Man, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Company.
During the 1990s, MLT's major project has been obtaining a home of their own to stage small productions, conduct workshops, and provide space to store and build sets, to rehearse, as well as store props and costumes.
The desire to do smaller plays in addition to our[who?] yearly big musicals resulted in the production of an original play One Civilized Person in 1995 as a part of the Marblehead Festival of Arts and later, productions of Exit the Body, The Cemetery Club and Bullshot Crummond, all staged at the Tower School in Marblehead.
1998's major production of The Wizard of Oz staged at the Aldrich Center played to sold out audiences.
During the production of The King and I in the Fall of 1999, the Marblehead Board of Selectmen awarded the School Street Firehouse to Marblehead Little Theatre.