The Little Theatre of Alexandria opens its 1980-81 season tomorrow evening with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel." For more information about plays, classes or sponsorships, call the Little Theatre at 683-5778.
The Little Theatre of Alexandria has success written across every marquee.
This month the theater opens it 46th season, with a growing list of members and subscribers, a full range of productions and a healthy, $100,000 budget.
"We started in 1934 as a group of alexandrians who loved theater," says Little Theatre President Anne Lash who also is the group's historian. "Back then the members spent most of their time searching for an audience and a place to perform. Now, we have an audience that wants theater, good theater. And we try to oblige."
For the most part, the theater's seven-play season focuses on contemporary musicals or comedy-dramas. The theater also sponsors a one-act play festival every year as well as productions designed to showcase the talents of students in the children's and adult drama classes.
Last year, the theater claimed the honors at the D.C. Department of Recreation's annual one-act play tournament. Its staging of "Spoon River" won awards for best production, best overall performer and best actor.
"Many of (the Little Theatre) productions are quite good," says David Young, producing director of the American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy-Center, who also directed the alexandria Little Theatre's production of "Company" last summer. "Their facilities are wonderful and the provide you with a set designer, choreographer and a costume designer. That's much more than many community theaters can offer."
For several years, the big moneymakers for the Little Theatre were their colonial revivals, complete with colonial costumes and 18th century pomp and elegance. For the Bicentennial, to attract the tourist trade in Alexandria, the theater staged a production of the popular "1776."
"Those productions were our real fund-raisers," urges Lash. "And all the money we made went into our building fund. Even back then we were planning for our future."
In 1979, the theater began focusing on comtemporary musicals, which now are an integral part of each season.
Equally responsible for the Little Theatre's financial security is the wise guidance of its business managers. In fact, the Little Theatre has invested its money so well that in 1961 it built its own 218-seat theatre equipped with rehearsal halls, prop rooms, dressing rooms and a reception area with a kitchen to serve refreshments at interm issions and for cast parties. Under a 30-year agreement with the city, the Little Theatre leases the land where the theater stands, at Wolfe and South St. Asaph streets, for $10 a year.
The Little Theatre has been particularly aggressive in coming up with plans to maintain its financials stability. Under one program, designed to aid the Little Theater while serving the community, local groups and charties can reserve the theater for fund-raisers on specific nights.
"This is how it works," explains Anita Beasey, longtime actress who is chairman of the program. "An organization buys the house for Tuesday or Wednesday nights, for $425 for dramas and $525 for musicals. This represents a cost of between $2 and $3 a ticket. The groups then sell these tickets to their members, often at a large profit."
"It's beneficial for all of us," adds Lash. "All an organization has to do is print tickets and bring refreshments."
Groups like the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the American Red Cross have participated in the program.
James M. Mayer, chairman of the Mount Vernon Council of the Knights of Columbus, says his group has taken advantage of the sponsorship program for many years.
"For the last 10 years we've made good money for our charities and we've never had a flop," he said.
"It's basically a lot of fun for everyone," chuckles Beasey. "Last year we had the Democrats on one night and Republicans on the next."
Now that the Little Theatre's audience is secure, the members can focus more heavily on drama classes and a new playwriting contest.
"Community theaters are excellent proving grounds for young people interested in theater," says Lash. "For one production a member may sew the costumes. For another, you may work the lights. And for a third, you could be a star!"