One of the best things about summer is the hundreds of concerts, festivals and cultural events occurring throughout the Greater Hartford region. The season is a constant celebration of the art, music and culture in the capitol city and our grantees are hosting several events to keep our community vibrant.
This month, we’re shining our grantee spotlight on the Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall, an organization dedicated to presenting a variety of live theatre productions, concerts and other performing arts programs located within Cheney Hall, the oldest operating theater in Connecticut. Their production of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film thriller, The 39 Steps, runs from August 11th to 27th. (Buy your tickets here!)
Founded in 1960 under the wing of the Recreation Department, the Little Theatre of Manchester Inc., is “a theater company of, by, and for the community”. Since 1961, Little Theatre of Manchester has produced at least three major dramatic productions each year, a total of more than 1,100 performances of 197 major productions, playing to a total estimated audience of 300,000. Over 2,000 non-professional actors have performed in Little Theatre of Manchester shows and another 1,000 volunteers have worked backstage and on the business’s side of the company’s operations. In 1966 Little Theatre of Manchester reorganized as a 501©3 nonprofit organization, and LTM has resided in Cheney Hall, a National Historic Landmark building and the oldest operating theater in Connecticut, since 1991.
“Little Theatre of Manchester adds value to its community by enhancing livability, ensuring Greater Manchester has a robust cultural and artistic environment that complements neighboring towns and regions; by removing barriers to art participation that may prevent community members from enjoying performing arts or from participating in the craft making of theatre; and by preserving Cheney Hall, ensuring the historical landmark remains an accessible venue to which all people in the Greater Manchester community are welcome,” said Little Theatre of Manchester’s Executive Director, Dwayne Harris.
Harris has been involved with the theatre since a young age. He was mesmerized by the power of storytelling and the artistry of a live production. As soon as he saw an opportunity to get involved with an organization in Manchester to preserve that, he took it. And he’s been with the Little Theatre of Manchester ever since.
Little Theatre of Manchester has collaborated, promoted, planned and engaged the community to make Cheney Hall an arts and cultural center for the region. In addition to its five main stage annual productions, which represent a minimum of 47 performances, Little Theatre of Manchester also produces Evenings @ 7 play-readings several times a year. This offers the troupe an opportunity to hear new works, allow playwrights to see their works performed, and gives new directors and actors an opportunity to hone their skills.
“Little Theatre of Manchester fills a cultural gap for many of our patrons: our productions and presentations can be their primary source of access to the performance arts. Given our location and affordability, Little Theatre provides a service to which many in Manchester and surrounding communities would not otherwise have immediate access,” said Harris. “Our mission has three major components SHARE, CREATE and WECLOME. We share the magic of theatre with all people in our community (more than 300,000 so far). We provide a place for people of all skill levels (more than 2,500 so far) to create art. We welcome nearly 10,000 people a year through our doors, ensuring Cheney Hall remains a cultural treasure from which the Greater Manchester community can benefit for many years to come.”
All of the productions at Little Theatre of Manchester are done with amateur actors. They hold separate auditions for their mainstage productions, and invite all members of the community to participate. An audition committee, comprised of the director and other members of the creative team along with volunteers from their membership, sees every person who comes in to audition. It’s a difficult process for the committee as they often spend hours deliberating on the casting, and every person who comes in receives a call from a committee member to let the person know the outcome. When it comes to auditioning, Little Theatre of Manchester accepts all interested parties, whether it is their first audition or hundredth.
“We allow people in the community, regardless of skill level, to participate in the craft of live theatre. From set building to acting on stage, we invite anyone who has the commitment and eagerness to learn to partake in the creating theatre,” said Harris.
He even encourages the readers of our blog to participate. “If anyone reading this has ever had any or experience or interest in being involved with theatre, I highly suggest they come and volunteer with us. LTM is a very welcoming organization and would love to have more new members help make great art! We don’t exist without community involvement. Volunteers are the foundation upon which we are able to do everything we do.
The Little Theatre of Manchester has been operating and preserving theatre in the Greater Hartford community for over 57 years. For more information and to get your tickets to a performance of 39 steps visit: www.cheneyhall.org.
Join our United Arts Campaign to support arts & cultural organizations like Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall and build a stronger and more vibrant community in Greater Hartford!