Three decades ago, in the war-torn years of 1942-1943 and in an area better known for mud and mosquitoes, the early stirrings of desire to develop a more cultural atmosphere resulted in the beginning of the Little Theatre of Brazosport.
It was a self-help, boot-strap operation which progressed from an idea of eight people working in defense plants, schools and as housewives, to the production of a full three-act play on a school stage on October 29, 1943. The founding eight enlisted six more, and these fourteen put up $10.00 each to finance the first production.
In an area hungry for entertainment, the group fast became a core of social and cultural life in the community and in the years 1947-1949 found itself with 500 sustaining members. In 1948, the Theatre was granted a state charter as a non-profit community organization dedicated to offering entertainment and education in the theater arts to all citizens of the community.
But, it was to take ten years for the Theatre to find its first “home”. Until that time, sets were built and painted in yards. They were hauled to the school auditorium, set up for a two-night run and then dismantled, stored in a donated shed or destroyed.
This nomadic existence came to a happy end in 1952 when the group used its entire savings to buy a sturdy, landmark house on the levee of the old Brazos River in Velasco. The Little theatre was home at last.
The varied skills of volunteer carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers and seamstresses were utilized to transform the house into a working and social center. Interior walls were dismantled, ceilings shored up with steel beams. The kitchen was modernized, a new restroom created. The entrance was turned around so the porch would be used as a workshop-storage room. Four small rooms in the center of the house became one 30X30 foot area. But there was still the problem of moving sets and playing only two weekend performances in the only available place, a local school.
Then, in late 1957, it was suggested to the group that they use the high-ceilinged great room as an arena theater, and produce and perform in their own building. The next year and a half was the conversion (again by volunteers) into a 75-seat arena theater which opened its first production on March 10, 1959. Seating was on folding chairs. The lights were created from two-pound coffee cans. But a new and exciting theater was born in Brazosport.
For seventeen years since then, the Little theatre has gone on producing shows of increasing professional quality. Workshops in the various theater arts are taught each year to adults and children. At least three productions are offered each season. One actor in 1975 celebrated his 30th anniversary on Little Theatre stages. Second generation young people are now active as actors, directors, technicians. A Little Theatre Drama scholarship Fund is maintained at Brazosport College.
The Theatre now, as from the beginning, is supported by patron and membership donations each year, and by its own box-office income. The business of community theater is everybody’s business. No one owns it but the public who supports it and votes in it. Its operation is governed by an elected board of directors.
In 1976, the Little Theatre, through its membership with the Brazosport Fine Arts Council, moved to Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility to begin its 35th season and 100th production.
This is an awesome responsibility. It will be met with the same spirit as its founders met their challenge in 1942.
Brazosport Music Theater’s first production in August 1966 was “The King and I”. This new group was organized to meet the desire of those interested in musical theater activities.
In the summer of 1964, the Fine Arts Council, the Little Theater and the Art League had joined forces to produce “Brigadoon”. This project was begun to provide a summer activity for interested citizens. “Brigadoon” was a success in every way.
The following year some were disappointed that another show was not done; however, the three organizations, which had sponsored “Brigadoon”, chose not to produce musicals on a regular basis.
In January of 1966 a group of enthusiastic participants met to make plans for the organization of a group to produce summer musicals. In September of that year, after a successful summer production of “The King and I”, the first general membership meeting of the group was held. The charter was granted July 3, 1967.
Since its organization, the following musicals have been produced: 1967, “Oliver”; 1968, “The Sound of Music”; in 1969 plans for doing “The Mikado” were cancelled; 1970, “Kiss Me Kate”; 1971, “My Fair Lady”. In 1972 “Fiddler on the Roof” was cancelled early in rehearsals and postponed until 1973; “South Pacific” was presented in 1974; “Damn Yankees” in 1975.
As community interest grew, there was a desire for more than one musical production per year. However, as the Brazosport High School auditorium was available to the Theater only during the summer, this was not possible.
Brazosport Music Theater’s future plans in the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences include expansion of concept of musical theater for various types of musical productions such as opera, operetta and utilization of a variety of cast sizes. The Music Theater also plans to conduct workshops in various phases of musical theater.