by Brooke Peipert
Alton Little Theater is one of the oldest, continuously-running community theaters in the country and is set to launch its 86th Season at the Alton Little Theater Showplace in the heart of Alton, Illinois. The theater was founded in 1933 by Dorothy Colonius, a “dreamer” and an educator who was inspired by the “little” theaters she had attended all over New England. Dorothy’s friends and students were inspired by her dreams and worked tirelessly to not only produce entertaining shows, but to raise money to build a home for the theater group.
Upon entering the self-constructed building in which they currently reside and have proudly outgrown, you are greeted with a large painting of Dorothy herself, who is still a major inspiration to the theater that many call home. Quirky little memorials are placed throughout the venue, including a bright red chair in the audience that travels around to different spots, serving as much as an inside joke to the Theater members as a reminder that their legacy of Dorothy and her vision for the theater lives on.
Volunteers have always anchored the productions at Alton Little Theater, with production numbers well over 500. Alton Little Theater is recognized as a 501-c-3 Non-Profit Corporation, which is now headed by executive director Lee Cox and artistic director Kevin Frakes, along with the support of a board of directors. What is even more exceptionally entertaining is that both Lee and Kevin were raised in the theater, very much protégés of Dorothy herself. This is not just a job for these two as much as it is a way of life. It is incredibly humbling to see a theater succeeding because of such a deep-rooted and personal commitment to their dear friend Dorothy. Upon visiting the theater, I felt very much at home, and Lee commented that the theater itself has served as a “home away from home” for many theater members and patrons over the years.
Alton Little Theater is a leader in supporting the artistic opportunities in Alton, as a medium-size business contributing nearly $272,000 last year to the community. In turn, the theater’s leadership mentors, supports, and is very committed to community collaborations with the entire Riverbend region. With that being said, Alton Little Theater hopes to build a state-of-the art performing arts center in the near future to increase seating capacity and comfort, while having the ability to offer additional space for classroom and studio performances.
The theater produces six Mainstage Productions each year, with a big Summer Showcase of musicals. Recently added is what Alton Little Theater is calling the Extra, Extra Entertainment Series as a fundraising drive. The Extra, Extra Entertainment Series runs from July 2019 through April 2020. This program has taken every bit of three years to develop with the ability to showcase local, regional, and national talent in special limited-run engagements. The classical “Wizard of Oz” Musical is their biggest fundraiser and runs for ten performances between July 25th through August 4th. Single tickets are $20; season ticket holders receive a discount. In addition to “The Wizard of Oz”, the Extra, Extra Entertainment also has other events booked, which you can find in Gesso Magazine’s calendars of events or on the ALT website.
Alton Little Theater was recently nominated for 22 Theater Mask Awards by ARTS FOR LIFE, a local not-for-profit Arts and service organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating Community and Youth Theater. Artistic director Kevin Frakes was recently nominated for their Lifetime Achievement Award for his 45 years of service to the organization. ALT was also honored to be among the top 5 selections in the publication of GO Magazine as the “best place to see a musical in the St. Louis Region.” And this month, Lee Cox and Kevin Frakes will accept a top honor, The Twink Lynch Award, through the American Association of Community Theatre, at the National Convention in Gettysburg, PA, for excellence in innovation as one of the most outstanding “Theatres in the Heartland.”
When asked about the theater’s productions, Lee commented, “Production never stops and Alton Little Theater is incredibly proud to entertain approximately one thousand season ticket holders and another 1,200 guests at most productions.” Lee Cox welcomes visitors to the Theater and often arranges tours and photo opportunities – and will soon obtain a professionally-produced video by Mike Weaver to share with media sources.
So grab a friend and head to Alton Little Theater to catch a play that will not disappoint. By patronizing the local arts instead of franchised movie theaters, you are supporting a dream, a legacy, and a theater of people who have worked tirelessly to provide our entire St. Louis Metro area with such a unique insight into the art form of theater itself!
“The Wizard of Oz (Classic) Musical” is their next production and their biggest fundraiser. It runs for ten performances from July 25th through August 4th.
Messages for Lee or requests for additional information can be left at 618-531-3777. Information about “early-bird” sales, open auditions, volunteering, and ALT’s line-up is available through their box office at 618-462-3205 (staffed Monday through Friday 10am to 2pm) or through the ALT website and ALT Facebook.
Alton Little Theatre
2450 North Henry Street,
Alton, IL 62002
For more on the ARTS FOR LIFE / Theatre Mask Awards:
Extra, Extra Entertainment Series Schedule:
“The Wizard of Oz (Classic) Musical” is their biggest fundraiser and runs for ten performances. Runs from July 25th through August 4th – Tickets $20 (before Season Ticket holder discount)
“School Secrets” is a new play by Patrick Anderson who is a talented local Educator and author of children’s books. It is a must see for teachers, parents and high school students. Runs from Friday, September 27th, 10am and 7pm and Saturday, September 28th, 7pm – Tickets $20
“Loving Lincoln Legacy Dinner Theater” includes dinner with Mary Todd Lincoln and Company, as well as, an expanded visit with the people who shared and shaped Abraham Lincoln’s life. Runs from Friday, October 11th 6pm – Tickets $40
“Terry Barber in Concert for ONE GREAT AFTERNOON” come out to see one of the greatest voices in the Riverbend region perform the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Runs on Sunday, November 10th-2pm – Tickets $25
“Sing A Long With Santa- a Fun Family Event” includes hot chocolate& prizes. Runs on Friday, December 20th and Saturday, December 21st – 7pm – Tickets $10
“Kenny Rogers (& Company) Tribute Concert and Show” starring Kevin Frakes and featuring Sawyer Burton & Kate Costell. Runs on Friday, February 21st 7:30 pm, Saturday, February 22nd 7:30 pm, and Sunday February 23rd 2pm – Tickets $20
Come hear the Voices, the Stories, the shared memories of some of the Riverbend’s Best Singers – AND hear the Winning Essays from Area Students as ALT salutes all those who have served our Country and helped us Stand Tall! Run on Saturday, April 18th, 7:30 pm and Sunday April 19th, 2pm – Tickets $20