Theater captured the fancy of Twin City residents as early as 1920 when a drama club was formed and Shakespeare was read at meetings.
The group was originally organized as the “Community Players.” But there was more work to be done. More meetings were held to select officers, appoint committees, set dues (at $1.00 per family per year), and finally to present and approve a charter. “The Little Theatre of Monroe, Inc.” was officially born!
In July of that same year, the first play was performed called “The Whole Town’s Talking” at the Grand Street Theatre (originally called Valetti’s Motion Picture House).
As interest grew and the theatre proved to be too primitive and too small, the Community Players performed anywhere they could find a stage and an auditorium, such as Central Grammar School, Georgia Tucker, Neville, Ouachita Parish Junior College, Crosley Elementary, and even the Parish Court House (for a courtroom drama).
By this time, the war was over, the Selman Field Air Force Navigation School had closed, and the City of Monroe leased the old Red Cross Recreation Building at the Selman Field facility to the Theatre for $1.00 per year. This was the first real home we had.
The most significant happening during the period at Selman Field was in 1958, when Director Ivan Utal, for the first time in the theatre’s history, dared to do a musical called “The Boy Friend.” This was such a success that he again chose a musical the following year, this time, “The Pajama Game.”
One of the members of the audience during “The Pajama Game” was Mr. Clifford Strauss, who, seeing the tremendous success of the show, offered to donate $50,000 through the Carolyn Rose Strauss Foundation for a new theatre if the theatre would match it. Match it they did and then some.
In 1959, Columbia Gas System contributed the Lamy Lane site and Ouachita Gravel cleared and filled the land. Architect Paul Stewart designed the new building and Ford, Bacon, & Davis contributed the steel for the structure.
Construction was completed on April 13, 1961. “Damn Yankees” opened the season and starred Life Members Dr. George Brian as the devil and James R. “Buddy” Henry as a singing ballplayer. The enterprising group even secured uniforms from the REAL New York Yankees.
In 1967 Chris Ringham was hired and continued in the position of Executive Director for the next 35 years. During Chris’s “reign,” the theatre experienced extensive growth, both in the number of members and in several major additions and renovations to the physical structure.
Today we celebrate our 87th consecutive season of theatre. Since Chris’s retirement, Strauss has had several other talented artistic directors. Today, most of our presentations are directed by local folks who bring their amazing talents to our stage. Strauss continues its strong journey because of the undying support of this community who believes in the importance and wonder of live theatre. We look forward to providing a limitless future of highest quality community theatre in the years to come.