Founded in 1934, the Little Theatre of Alexandria began as a small play-reading group in Old Town Alexandria under the Presidency of Miss Mary Lindsey. Full productions ensued, and in 1939 the group bought a rickety former blacksmith’s shop located in Ramsey Alley, between Lee and Fairfax streets, for rehearsal space and construction of sets and costumes. Since 1934, the theatre has mounted over 300 productions.
Early productions were held upstairs at Gadsby’s Tavern and recreated life in the eighteenth century, right down to the visit of President and Mrs. Washington journeying from their Mount Vernon home. Over the years, audience members included a veritable “Who’s Who” of Washington. President Harry S. Truman attended on more than one occasion, and notes say that Lynda Bird Johnson even participated as a serving wench! In June 2001, President George W. Bush made LTA his first Washington-area theatrical outing when he came to see his sister-in-law perform in Neil Simon’s Proposals.
During the early 1940’s with war in both Europe and Asia, LTA members decided to suspend operations. In a time of war rationing, theatre seemed like a luxury that was best set aside until peace returned. During the hiatus, Robert and Alice Whitton, the Theatre’s second and eighth Presidents respectively, continued to rent the workshop space and collected dues regularly from about 100 members. In late 1945, the Whitton’s called a meeting for the purpose of resuming normal operations.
During the 1950s, the hunt was on for a theatre of our own, and an empty lot at the corner of Wolfe and St. Asaph streets became the permanent home of LTA. At first, Alexandria generously agreed to rent the space to LTA for $1 per year. The theatre building was finally completed, and the first production—the comedy “Send Me No Flowers”—opened on November 18, 1961. A west wing was added five years later to accommodate dressing rooms, a sewing room, a rehearsal hall and carpenter shop. A later addition included additional shop space and the Council Green Room. In the 1970s LTA formally purchased the land from the city of Alexandria.
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