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The History of Shawnee Little Theatre

Shawnee Little Theatre, Inc. was created in the summer of 1967. The theatre was the brainchild of two college students home for the summer, and their energetic former drama teacher. Within a three-week period a handful of volunteers produced their very first show that was critically and financially successful.

Startup expenses were offered by the local Jaycees, but never accepted. Volunteers from all areas of the community banded together to write bylaws and structure the nonprofit 501c3 entity that became today’s Shawnee Little Theatre, Inc.

Shawnee Little Theatre captured the imagination of a community as an outlet for live performances, and a new theatre was born!

Because of a lack of a dedicated space, early SLT productions were performed in parish halls and community rooms for a couple of seasons.

In the spring of 1970, a local banker leased an abandoned doctor’s clinic to the troupe as their first real home, and a summer of renovations followed. By fall, SLT opened its first season of productions in its new eighty seat “two-quarter round” theatre, where it would perform for the next five years.

Quickly outgrowing the space, the Board of Directors decided to solicit the community to fund their very own theatre building for the troupe.

A city-wide fund drive raised over $150,000 to start construction, and the City of Shawnee leased the land for the building to SLT for a nominal fee of $100 a year. Dinners, charity drives, and even a fundraising appearance by Broadway Star Carol Channing brought the group the resources needed to build the theatre.

SLT board members break ground on the theatre in 1975.
SLT board members break ground on the theatre in 1975.

Finally, in the summer of 1976, SLT opened its new two hundred seat auditorium, which is the home of Shawnee's community theatre to this very day.

SLT was able to be financially solvent with proceeds from the very first show, and has operated without borrowing funds ever since. The theatre relies on ticket sales, sponsorships, and donations for all of its funding needs, and has also been honored to receive grants along the way as well.

Nearly 300 productions later, SLT claims the great-great-grandchildren of its charter members, carrying on the true community theatre tradition with each new season.

As a 100% volunteer-led organization and one of the long-standing pillars of Shawnee's fine arts community, Shawnee Little Theatre is dedicated to providing quality entertainment and inspiring appreciation for the arts for all generations. Be a part of the next chapter of SLT history by becoming a volunteer!



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