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The cast of “Christmas Pudding,” one of Alton Little Theater’s many past productions. The theater, which has been in operation since the early 1930s, is gearing up to kick off it’s new season as well as summer events and is in the planning stages of an extensive renovation of the building at 2450 North Henry.
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ALTON – When talking about Alton Little Theater’s upcoming season, public relations director Lee Cox gets very…dramatic.
In her defense, with all of the exciting things going on in 2014, she does have an excuse to get “the vapors.” To kick off its 81st season, Alton Little Theater is offering special package pricing and extra savings from now until May 31, for starters.
“(This is) simply the best entertainment value in the Riverbend area,” Cox said. “For $65, theater lovers can attend four comedies and a musical during the regular season, and for $15 more can add the holiday benefit musical, ‘Always Patsy Cline’ and even choose to attend a holiday gala for an additional $5 on Dec. 3.”
Although the new season does not begin until September, there is plenty of music and fun patrons can catch in the meantime. Through May 11, the ALT is continuing its run of “Hallelujah Girls,” a comedy in the vein of “Steel Magnolias,” and stars popular local director and actor Kevin Frakes.
“Hallelujah Girls” allowed Cox and Frakes to share the stage together for the first time, although the two have been friends for 40 years.
“Kevin is such a talented singer and we have worked on shows and murder mysteries together but have never appeared together on stage until now,” Cox said. “He and I are usually so busy…that we rarely get to just have fun, but doing the show together with his wife and my husband has been a blast.”
This summer, Alton Little Theater is presenting “9 to 5: The Musical,” based on the 1980 hit movie.
In September, the new season opens with “Leading Ladies” by Ken Ludwig, a “witty take on how far actors will go to find an audience and love.” The dark comedy “Kosher Lutherans” follows, and, in January, the popular “Alone Together,” a tale of empty nest syndrome vs. children moving back home returns. “Shenandoah,” a musical directed by Kevin Frakes and Jean Heil and based on the 1965 film will help to usher in spring in 2015, and the season will conclude with another ode to Southern women and their sensibilities, “The Dixie Swim Club.”
Then, the classic and always popular “Grease” returns in summer 2015.
The history of Alton Little Theater dates back to the 1933, when Dorothy Colonius and two friends formed a non-profit community theater, performing anywhere willing to allot some space for the performers. Later, the troupe moved into the Alton High School auditorium until 1960, when the Showplace first opened its doors. The auditorium was built in 1971 (also the spot of Cox’s wedding).
Today, the Showplace has been expanded, as has the small but dedicated group of performers. At least seven plays are produced and performed each year in the 220-seat theater at 2450 North Henry.
Growing popularity, growing sets, and growing ambitions are necessitating the need for increased space and facilities, and so Alton Little Theater currently is raising funding for an expansion of the Showplace into an all-new “Black Box Theater,” offering seating for an additional 130 patrons, enhanced sound and lighting technology, space for larger sets, and a new stage.
Cox says the proposed renovations will cost approximately $2.1 million.
“Community theaters are closing all over the country because of funding and cost issues, but I believe that the ALT can survive and thrive if people really come see what we’re about,” Cox said.
“Community support is key to our success. We receive no federal or state funding, and we rely on the patronage and contributions of the folks who live in the Riverbend area.”
The volunteers who work hard to keep the arts alive for the Greater Alton community hope the renovations will increase revenue and visibility for the building, and plan to offer the new facilities for private parties, church meetings, school productions, and business and marketing meetings.
ALT also is developing summer workshop programs for children, where young people can learn about performance skills, musicality, lighting, sound and costuming.
A capital campaign and search for new members and sponsors is now underway to cover the renovation costs, and Cox hopes to see the community get behind and support the organization she feels is so vital to the culture of the local area.
“We need your help,” she said. “Seeing us succeed only benefits the community.”
To learn more about the new season, how to join the ALT team, or more information about membership and pledges, visit the website at www.altonlittletheater.org or call (618) 462-3205.