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A Brief History of Our Beginnings

Alfred Hutty drawing    Charleston's oldest community theater group, the Footlight Players had their beginnings sixty years ago.

   Heirs to a tradition dating back to the early 19th century, a nucleus of Charlestonians wanted a truly community theater for their city. Reflecting this spirit, in March 1931, a small group presented a program of one-act plays, and so started the history of this company, formally organized as "The Footlight Players, Inc." in the fall of 1932. In 1934, the Footlight Players purchased an old cotton warehouse at 20 Queen Street with the idea of eventually converting it into a finished playhouse. Yet until 1938, all productions were given in rented theaters, and the warehouse was used for storage and scenery construction.

   It was in the old Academy of Music that most of these early plays were presented until 1936 when a Footlight production closed the history of this famous Charleston landmark, the building then being razed after 70 years of theatrical activity. Several plays were presented alfresco and the Victory Theater was used from December 1936 to April 1937.
   In November 1937, upon invitation of the City of Charleston, the Footlight Players opened the reconstructed Dock Street Theater with a special gala production of "The Recruiting Officer". In 1938 began a three-year period during which an affiliation was in effect between the Footlight Players and the Carolina Art Association, which terminated in 1941. At that time in 1941 there were no theaters available for rental so the Footlight Players turned again to their warehouse. Still but four walls and a roof (on which was a debt for damages inflicted by a recent tornado) they visualized its possibilities as a Workshop. In less than two months through the efforts of volunteer workers of all ages, the former warehouse was completely remodeled to emerge as an informal playhouse and workshop.

   Since that time - the fall of 1941 - the Footlight Players has presented six regular seasonal productions annually, both in the Workshop and in the Dock Street Theater. In 1986 the Footlight Players moved out of the Dock Street Theater and has presented the six-show season in the Footlight Players Workshop exclusively.

   For over six decades, two principles have dominated the growth of the Footlight Players, Inc. The first is that plays of professional caliber can be produced on a community level. The second is that a community theater best serves its audiences by being truly indigenous, with the selection of plays and styles of presentation strongly influenced by the mores and attitudes of the town.

   Since 1931,through depression, wars, recessions, and natural disasters, the Footlight Players have been in continuous production. No cut-and-dried record of growth statistics, no matter how comprehensive, can tell the true story of the Footlight Players.

   What began as a small group has become, for Charleston, a theatrical tradition, built and strengthened over many years by hundreds of willing hands, by priceless gifts of time and toil,and of faith, enthusiasm and talent, freely offered and in gracious abundance.

Become a part of the Footlight Players.
Your tax-deductible contributions will keep the tradition alive.

The Footlight Players - 20 Queen Street - Charleston, SC 29402 - (843) 722-4487

The Footlight Players is a member of The Charleston Trident Chamber of Commerce,
The Charleston Area Arts Council and The American Association of Community Theaters
Website Design by Heffner 9/20/97