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The Little Theatre of Alexandria – In Our Midst

The Little Theatre of Alexandria Profile

Jordan Wright
May 21, 2023
In Our Midst – The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Special to The Zebra

In celebration of its 90th anniversary the beloved The Little Theatre of Alexandria has quite a story to tell. With a lengthy history of presenting everything from emotional dramas, Broadway musicals and rom-coms to farce, historical epics and snappy British humor, over the decades the theater has given its audiences a wide range of top-notch entertainment to choose from. This year alone the theater earned a whopping 58 nominations from the Washington Area Theater Community Honors (WATCH Awards). With the help of the theater’s historian Kim Smith-Salmon and LTA President Frank Shutts, we dug into the archives to reveal the history of the small yet mighty theater that continues to provide an extraordinary contribution to the arts in Alexandria.

Hairspray at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Inspired by a community theater in Lynchburg, VA, Alexandria resident Mary Lindsey mounted LTA’s first production in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression by inviting a drama group through St. Paul’s Church. Formerly known as the “Peacock Players”, the 200-person strong membership met several times at Gadsby’s Tavern to plan for three one-act plays. The following year they incorporated as The Little Theatre of Alexandria premiering with Holiday by Phillip Barry which was performed at The Lyceum Hall for two consecutive nights. The Lyceum was to become the primary staging point for the theatre at this time. For the rest of the first year, one-act plays were interspersed with full-length plays, some recent Broadway hits.

Before tickets were sold to the public, attendees were members and productions were initially held in the Lyceum. In those early years the LTA mounted productions in Gadsby’s Tavern, Carlyle House and during the war years at the Alexandria Cameron Street USO Center. In 1957 the Alexandria City Council granted the group a lease of property at the corner of Wolfe and St. Asaph Streets to construct a permanent structure. Legend has it that the beautiful wrought iron gates that enclose the garden courtyard are from either the Truman White House or Old Executive Building – a mystery the theater is currently researching.

In November 1960 ground was officially broken on the structure – once a vacant lot used by neighborhood children for pick-up games of softball and kickball – and the first performance in the new permanent building at 600 Wolfe Street took place in November 1961 with Send Me No Flowers. In 1960, LTA produced its first musical The Boyfriend, opening the door to over 60 years of musicals and plays at the new location.

Avenue Q at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

The first presidential visit was President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess, who came to see the Gadsby’s Tavern production in 1947. Not only was this the first time a US President had visited LTA, but the first time a US President had been to Gadsby’s Tavern since Andrew Jackson. The Little Theatre of Alexandria has been visited more recently by First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush as well as President George Bush when daughter-in-law Margaret Bush performed in Neil Simon’s Proposals in the fall of 2001. Older members recall regular visits from President Truman, and Lady Bird Johnson serving punch during intermissions. Numerous senators and congressmen including John Warner and Mark Warner have been spotted in the audience as well as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The biggest surprise may have been when in 1939 Thornton Wilder attended a production of his play Our Town.

Ragtime at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Over the years a number of actors went on to enjoy successful careers in theater including Marcia Gay Harden who appeared at LTA in 1982 in Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures, Dermont Mulroney who took classes at LTA when his mother was a member. TV actor Steve O’Connor took classes and appeared in several shows. Calvin Remsburg went onto a professional career in the theater and actors like Tom Wiggin have appeared in national soaps. Currently, LTA is represented on Broadway in The Life of Pi by actress Salma Qarnain who appeared in LTA’s 2000 production of Hair. One Washington Post reviewer referred to the theater as “the Kennedy Center of Community theaters without the obvious trappings.”

The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years will open on June 3rd and run through June 24th. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 703 683-0496.

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