What began as a small, play-reading group in the 1930s, today is The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Through its members, LTA has seven major productions a year. Productions consist of 20 performances, the longest run of any community theater in the region.
World War II veteran and long time member Ernest Paul Sult has been active in LTA since high school in the mid 1940s. Sult, who was a member of his high school drama club, said he first became involved with LTA when he was chosen as a senior to receive a one-year membership. Sult said in the early days, the organizers of the theater, which was then a theater group, produced high school plays that were performed in high school auditoriums, the Alexandria recreation center, and even in the courtyard of Gadsby's Tavern.
The current location of the theater on Wolfe St. was built in the 1950s and fully financed with funds theater members, organizers, and trustees had managed to save over time. In fact, the theater is sustained by membership dues and donations. LTA actors, backstage crews, producers, and directors are required to be bona fide members of the theater. Everyone counts.
Jerry Wolf is also a long-time member of LTA. According to Sult, he is known for being very good at putting together a set. He led us on a backstage tour to get a glimpse at the workshop of the theater, the area where the props are made and kept, and the room where the cast rehearses while the stage undergoes preparation for a production. “We collect, make, and keep period props so that we have appropriate props for the plays,” Wolf said.
“The actors are the frosting on the cake. Without those artisans, mechanics and engineers, we call them techies, we could never create the illusions we create,” said Sult, who has acted and worked in various capacities.
Kit Sibley and Jean Schlichting are costume designers who have made hundreds of costumes over the years. “Everyone puts in 100%. The people are great, the shows are wonderful and high quality,” they said. Active participation brings the theater alive. Rachel Alberts agreed.
Alberts, a producer and board member, has been with The Little Theater on and off for more than six years.
“The Little Theater of Alexandria is a labor of love," she said. In her view, experiencing a creative pursuit such as theater as an adult is very gratifying since all are voluntarily working together for the common good. One often doesn’t experience this keen sense of community as it was in younger school days, she said. Alberts enjoys working and volunteering at LTA for many reasons. “It is well run, staffed, and funded; it has interesting seasons, and it is very professional, as professional a theater as I’ve ever seen," she said.
Tina Anderson, a volunteer since 2003, has primarily worked in the box office; however she has worked in other areas when needed. Anderson, who has taken acting classes at LTA said, working at LTA was her “little theater.” Another volunteer is Barbara Helsing. Since 1998, Helsing has ushered, helped backstage wardrobe with quick change, and assisted in the office. LTA has become a major part of her life where she has made endearing friends. She said she is proud to work at LTA; she appreciates the high standards of the theater. Helsing noted that LTA is a resource for neighboring theaters.
Charles Dragonette fell into theater by chance when a friend asked his help painting sets. He agreed and was subsequently approached to assist in stage management. Finding that he loved working behind the scenes, he has continued doing so for about five years now. He enjoys helping “…put it all together. It brings out the theatricality in me,” he said.