The Early Years
Guelph Little Theatre has presented outstanding amateur theatrical productions to Guelph and surrounding communities for over 80 years. Starting with a simple play reading group that met monthly, GLT’s first production, Yellow Sands, was staged in November 1935 by an enthusiastic 300-member group who loved live theatre. The first President of the group was Royal Bank manager Arthur Wilkinson.
During the early years, GLT members mounted their productions in schools, church basements and at many other locales in the city. They rehearsed at Homewood, the old YMCA building, St. Joseph’s Hospital, the basement of City Hall, in people’s homes, OVC lecture rooms, the basement of the old public library, the basement of War Memorial Hall and even the former Magistrate’s Courtroom. In 1967, the group purchased and moved into the former Salvation Army Citadel at 107 Dublin Street North. The building was purchased through fund-raising activities and private donations from members and patrons, and the mortgage was paid off within 15 years.
On November 16th, 1993, the theatre building was destroyed by a devastating fire. The production of Blood Relations opened on time just ten days later. Through the never-ending commitment of our members and people in the community, “the show went on”. The set, which was completely destroyed by the fire, was completely reconstructed, painted and decorated within three days. New props were found, costumes were rescued and cleaned, and lighting and sound equipment borrowed. Through all the adversity, the community continued to show its support.
GLT began using a location on Willow Road in Guelph as a rehearsal hall and office. Despite the devastation of the fire and the return to the days of performing in temporary spaces and the necessity of constant fundraising activities, the shows continued to go on. The 1994-1995 season maintained the tradition of offering four productions; two at Guelph Collegiate and two at War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph. Despite the fundraising efforts, the 1995-1996 season saw a reduction to three plays, as money was being lost due to the fees associated with using rental halls. It was deemed essential to continue to present a season to maintain a continuing presence in the community, despite the mounting financial losses.
The 1996-1997 season again featured three shows, but for a different reason. There was no early fall show planned as the members and volunteers were eagerly preparing the new theatre at 176 Morris Street for the season’s first production. Since moving into the new theatre, Guelph Little Theatre has reached new levels of achievement, both artistically and financially. The constant support of the community in combination with the elimination of hall rental fees has allowed Guelph Little Theatre to recover from its difficult financial times and put more money into publicity and production values. As a result, Guelph Little Theatre continues to produce high quality theatre for the community to enjoy.
Over the past several decades, GLT has earned a reputation for producing shows of the highest calibre, both artistically and technically. Dramas, comedies, musicals, full-length plays and one-acts; Guelph Little Theatre has done them all, and has won many, many awards at both the Western Ontario Drama League and Theatre Ontario festivals.