Gainesville's Little Theater Association was organized on June 17, 1927.
With the assistance of Mrs. F. W. Buchholz (Emmaline), a group of dreamers
met and began working to form a Little Theater group in Gainesville. "The
Little Theatre Association of the United States was growing fast. These
Little Theaters have been started in all the larger cities in the country
for the purpose of teaching children the art of acting and also the technical
parts of the production of a play." --- Gainesville Daily Sun on July 10,
summer of 1927 they elected Mrs. Wilburn Lassiter, president of the
local organization, Mrs. O. B. Ogletree, first vice-president, Mrs. George
Cairns, second vice-president, Mrs. Walter Hawkins, secretary, Mrs. G.
H. Blackmon, treasurer, Mrs. J. E. Murray, corresponding secretary, Mrs.
F. W. Buchholz, chairman of the board of directors and Prof. Paul Buchanan,
The first production was The Pied Piper of Hamlin. Classes were
opened in the fall for children of all ages for a fee of $2.50. The group
met and the Junior League of the Little Theater attended classes and several
plays were presented to the public. Skidding on May 13, 1932 was
the first performance by the adult members of the GLT. On November 4, 1932
was the second adult production Pigs. General Admission was 50 cents
for adults and 25 cents for children. The first musical feature to be presented
by the Gainesville Little Theatre was "Trial by Jury" on March 16, 1936
directed by Claude L. Murphree. Both the Junior League and the adult members
produced several plays yearly until 1943 when the theater became inactive
due to the war.
In 1948 Thelma
Boltin reactivated the theater again and brought to the stage several productions
a year. The interest in the Little Theatre waned from 1951 until 1955 when
University Professor Claude Murphree reactivated the group. From 1955 to
1960 GLT had three productions yearly.
Until 1961 the
gypsy GLT troupe performed wherever there was available space, with performances
presented at P.K.Yonge, Gainesville High School, University Auditorium
and later the City Recreation Center.
In 1961, S.
T. Dell and his sister Mrs. Hal Murdock of Miami, owned the Gainesville
Women's Club. His secretary Eloise Zeller convinced him into donating the
building to the theater group as long as they moved it off his property.
They bought the land on 16th Avenue for $1000.00 and moved the building
onto the property. Tom Godey describes the move of the building as they
sat on the truck and moved telephone and electric wires out of their way
with brooms. By 3:00 PM. that day the Gainesville Little Theater had a
home. There was no stage and no seats but it became a home and it was dedicated
to Eloise Zeller. They got seats from the old Florida Theatre Movie House
and they built a raised stage.
In 1983 the
50th Anniversary was celebrated and the named was changed to Gainesville
Community Playhouse. Since then over 250 productions have been enjoyed
by the Gainesville community. GCP is currently producing six to seven plays
With the building
deteriorating, a plan to construct a new theater was initiated by the GCP
Board of Directors in 1999. The gallant efforts of Bob Garrigues and Jerry
Brewington began a strong campaign for the building fund raising. With
the gracious donations from Mr. and Mrs. E. T. York, many wonderful patrons
and friends, GCP raised over $600,000. A grant was submitted to the
State Legislature for matching funds but the State budget cut out monies
needed for these funds. GCP is again trying to raise the rest of the needed
money so that a new building can be built for the 2005 season.