A Final Goodbye to the
Little Theatre

By Michael J. Arndt, M.F.A.

In 1985, Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Edward Albee walked into CLU's Little Theatre, looked around at the small, crude, black-walled metal building and said, "Well...this is all you need, isn't it? — A space in which to create art?" On Aug. 17, alumni and faculty spanning the five decades of the building's history celebrated all of the wonderful art created there since the early 1960s. In a "wake" organized by theatre alumni, four and one-half hours of memories stirred laughter and tears among the 60 or so attendees.

Barbara Hudson Powers, the original CLC Drama faculty member, told of the early days of doing theatre in a dormitory lounge before the Little Theatre came into being. Alumna Bonnie (Boss '76) Guthmiller talked of how the space served as a venue for music recitals as well as theatre productions while her husband, Wayne Guthmiller '75, whom she first met in the Little Theatre, described creating the original stage lighting system.

Stories continued to spin out — stories of production neardisasters, squirrely children's theatre audiences, religious drama tours, late-night or all-night tech sessions, summer stock theatre productions, student laundry done in the department washing machine, and even the Little Theatre providing a place to sleep for financially needy students. It became obvious to all in attendance that the Little Theatre was much more than a building.

Designed as an industrial or agricultural utility building, the Butler Company-constructed building was originally designated as a college maintenance shed. When placed on the slab next to the gym, the Little Theatre's walls were lined with knotty pine paneling, since painted over with black scenic paint. A tiny stage set at one end of the building was the primary performance area. The limited "offstage" space consisted of only inches behind the sets. The makeup room was a narrow passageway lined with lighted mirrors. Lighting and sound control took place in a tiny un-air-conditioned loft at the back of the building. The building was rated for occupancy of 90 but some performances packed almost 200 people into the building.

In the 1980s, the stage stopped being used for performances, and the entire space was used as a "black box" or flexible theatre space. The Little Theatre was also used as a classroom, a rehearsal hall, a dance studio, a scene shop, a banquet hall and a storage area. In the fall of 1990, for a few hours, it was even designated as the "Western White House" when then- President George H.W. Bush visited the CLU campus and rested there before he made a speech and planted a tree in Kingsmen Park.

After such an illustrious career, in mid-September the Little Theatre finally succumbed to the wrecking machines amidst metallic groans. The Theatre Arts Department is now the resident of the old gym. Provided with temporary housing for a black box theatre, an acting classroom, a design classroom and computer lab, dressing rooms, a makeup room, a new scene shop, costume shop and five offices, the department has much more space than existed in the Little Theatre. Although the new facility will aid Theatre Arts in continuing to develop its programs, the creative spirit of the Little Theatre lives on; its lore passed from generation to generation.

Theatre arts professor Michael Arndt joined the CLU faculty in 1982. His many awards include the prestigious Excellence in Education Award from Region VIII of the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival.

Goodbye Little Theatre

by Patricia Marsac '96 and Siana-Lea Gildard '96

We will miss you

We met you when we were freshmen
Young and full of bad high school drama experience
The Little Theatre
Not so little after all
You've outlived the four years we grew up in your shade

And it's too hard to say goodbye
So we never will

We moved into and out of our dorms
The Little Theatre

I met my husband outside your doors
I grew with my creative sister within your walls
And you gave us a place
To find our voice
And become the artists we are today

And it's too hard to say goodbye
So we never will

We remember your stage
In the round
Entering on diagonals
Tricky blocking

Beautiful acting moments will haunt this land
Even after you are gone
Your walls never judged us
Everything is welcome

And it's too hard to say goodbye
So we never will

Sneaking in to do our laundry over summer break
Staying here until 4 am and going to class at 8
Something always going wrong
But always ready for curtain

Repatching the lights in between scenes
Jerry rig
Rickety ladder
Flying wrenches
Moldy paint
Table saws
2 x 4's
Par cans
Drywall screws
And bolts
You transformed into a new world with each performance

And it's too hard to say goodbye
So we never will

You gave me the possibility to be a designer
And a teacher who had the patience to show me
You let me act on your stage
Even though I wasn't a theatre major
The theatre is never dark
Unless we want it to be for effect

We came in to audition for a play
And ended up building a set
Stage managing
Becoming more than we knew we could be
And in the meantime
Finding another family with every show

And it's too hard to say goodbye
So we never will

Feedback Form