ABOUT COMMUNITY LITTLE THEATRE
Started in 1940, Community Little Theatre's first performance was to an invited audience. In 1941 its first public performance took place in the same location where Community Little Theatre performs today. Known as the Edward Little High School Auditorium in 1941, its name changed to Central School Auditorium in the early 1960's and some twenty plus years later it became known as the Great Falls School Auditorium. From 1953 to 1978 the Sons of Italy Hall on Sylvan Avenue in Lewiston served as the club house for CLT, but performances still took place at Great Falls School. Sets were assembled, lights were hung, lines rehearsed and a play was presented to a live audience.
In 1981, Community Little Theatre entered into an agreement with the Auburn School Department to occupy and renovate the Great Falls School Auditorium on Academy Street in Auburn. This agreement was sough out by the Community Little Theatre because of two issues with which the organization was faced. One issue was the need to dispose of the old club house. The quarters at the club house were cramped and the rising costs of maintenance and fuel were taking a toll on the treasury. The second issue was the need for a more modern theater. CLT productions were becoming more professional and the theater group needed a theater that better reflected its professional objectives. The organization began exploring different sites that could serve as a home for meetings, rehearsals and performances. The theater searched out grange halls, store fronts and Auburn's old fire house. Then the idea of renovating Great Falls Auditorium was explored. It was an empty space used by no one. With some ideas, Community Little Theatre approached the Auburn School Department, worked out an agreement and started fund raising in the fall of 1981. Contributing to the fund raising efforts were the cities of Auburn and Lewiston. They each gave CLT $10,000.
In May, after the final performance of the '81-'82 season, the physical work began. When the '82-'83 season opened in October, with the exception of some final painting, the theater was ready. There were upholstered seats, a reconstructed lobby, new interior walls, and enlarged stage and better lighting and sound. Since 1982 the carpet has been replaced, the walls repainted and lighting and sound further improved.
The Theater has contributed much to the local communities. It has provided entertainment, participated in community activities, provided education and been the stepping stone for many young people who have gone on to work in various parts of the entertainment field. Some of these people have worked on Broadway and other professional theaters, television, community theaters and education. Some have worked as performers and others have worked in the technology of theater.
In the 1980's, CLT started performing on two successive weekends and in 1994 Community Little Theatre added a Sunday matinee. Also in the late 1980's the Edward Little High School Drama Club began doing its performances at the theater as well. With a CLT technician, the high school drama club has access to professional equipment which it would not have had were it still trying to perform in its high school gym. The relationship for both Community Little Theatre and Edward Little Drama Club, has proven to be a positive one. We have mentored the students, shared a space, borrowed each other's props and costumes and worked together to produce good theater for the community.
2003 - After many years operating in the former Central School, now Great Falls School, the building was site for 74 fire code violations. The City of Auburn addressed the majority of the items, the major expense the sprinkler system in the theater wing. Until its installation, CLT was required to have volunteers on fire watch throughout the building during every performance. This inspired a renewed effort for the future of GFS.
2003 - The City of Auburn and CLT initiated a joint funded feasibility study. The study concluded all options would require major investment in the facility to ensure the long term sustainability of the arts in downtown Auburn. The study was not used until more recent years when the city was beginning to face budget cuts and indecision on the support for the Great Falls School. CLT also was looking to reinvigor the long term lease discussion in order to initial a capital campaign for much needed improvements for both patron comfort, quality of productions and safety.
2010 - On November 15, 2010, City of Auburn councilors voted to close the Great Falls School facility for good with plans to demolish the facility in June 2011. Many tenants, not just CLT, were officially on notice. This included The Dance Center, Camire School of Dance, Mudroom Pottery, Share Center, ELHS Drama Club, Auburn Adult Eduction and L/A Community Little Theatre. Despite this decision, CLT Board of Directors were determined to either find a home or enter into a successful negotiation with the City of Auburn as its oldest and largest tenant.
In August 2011, CLT entered into a memorandum of understanding with the City of Auburn that resulted in a 99-year lease that made CLT fully responsible for operating and maintaining the theater-wing of the building. (The city subsequently demolished the other wing of the building where the parking lot now sits).
Since that time, CLT and the ELHS Drama Club have continued to produce several plays and musicals every year. More and more local organizations are now renting our theater, and CLT costume rentals have been growing extensively. Additional building improvements have included lobby and restroom renovations; a new entrance canopy; new lobby lighting, outdoor lighting and security cameras; a stage-lighting catwalk; and a variety of technology upgrades.
While CLT had to curtail regular season productions in 2021 due to the pandemic, we remained remarkably busy – especially with fundraising:
· We launched a “Mask Society” fundraising drive that raised over $60,000
· We produced a Valentine’s Day online multimedia concert
· We held two online fundraising auctions
· We secured a grant to restore our entrance canopies
· We were awarded a federal “Shuttered Venues” grant
· We continued to host our summer youth camps
Now with our 82nd season in 2022 completed, live theater continues on the CLT stage with our 83rd consecutive season!