|Brevard Little Theatre - the early years
|Brevard Little Theatre's earliest beginnings date back to the 1930s. That
was when Beulah Zachary, a young school teacher with a penchant for
organization and direction of theatrical productions, launched the first
community theater in Brevard. Becky Macfie and Alvin Moore, among
others, took leading roles in some of those early BLT productions, prior to
World War II.
Ms. Zachary later left the teaching profession and
went on to a professional stage managerial career in
the hustling, bustling New York City theatrical world.
She was successful in New York and moved on to
Chicago to get in on the ground floor of an
entertainment medium then in its infancy:
television. She became the producer of the very
popular Kukla, Fran and Ollie puppet show. Beulah
was still doing that job when she was killed in a New
York plane crash in 1959.
After her untimely death and in keeping with her wishes, her estate
made a generous donation to BLT, with the interest paid on that grant to
be used to fund BLT's annual award plaques in perpetuity. Now nearing
the half-century mark of its "second time around," Brevard Little Theatre
continues to honor its founder, Beulah May Zachary, at its annual awards
banquets and in its show programs.
During the World War II years, with most of the young men in the
military services and with women doing double duty on the home front,
BLT was disbanded until August of 1949, when a group of some forty
theater enthusiasts held a meeting in the Crafton Motor Company
building on Brevard's North Broad Street (now The Transylvania Times
building.) Under the leadership of Carolyn Winchester, President, Mrs.
R.M. Leavey, Vice President, Frances Walker, Secretary, and Howard
Schmidt, Treasurer, a newly-reorganized BLT embarked on what has
now been nearly half a century of theatrical productions.
Mr. Robroy Farquhar, who was at that time Director of the Lake Summit
Playhouse and who was also the founder of the Flat Rock Playhouse, gave
the fledgling BLT group the professional guidance needed for a successful
start. He also served as BLT's "resident director" for more than a
decade. His son, Robin, is currently the Manager of the Flat Rock
Playhouse, which is now the official State Theater of North Carolina. And
the beat goes on.
The first postwar BLT play, Peg O' My Heart, by Hartley Manners, was
staged in the autumn of 1950 in what is now the Brevard Junior High
School. The leading roles were played by Kay Dreyer and Alex Kizer, Jr.,
with Robroy Farquhar, Ray Winchester, Dot Baldauf, Elinor Lyda and Brad
Harrison in supporting roles. Rehearsals took place in the basement of a
West Main Street store (then Parson's Jewelry), with back-entrance steps
leading down from the Times Arcade.
During the 1952-53 season, under the leadership of BLT President Charles
Glazener, the number of sponsors increased from two to a total of 103.
That included 55 business, 2 civic and 46 personal sponsorships. The
enticing "sales pitch" pointed out that a BLT season ticket really only cost
ten cents. That sum was determined by deducting the $2.40
complimentary pass to the Flat Rock Playhouse (which entitled the holder
to the best seats in the house) from the $2.50 cost of a BLT season
membership. While prices in general have escalated quite a bit since
those days, BLT still strives to offer its patrons live theater at bargain
rates. The objective, then as now, was always to get as many people as
possible to see the shows.
During the early fifties, it was a custom to take the BLT shows "on the
road," to the Veterans Administration hospitals at Swannanoa and at
Oteen, and also to perform at the Mary Jenkins Community Center.
Sampling the oldest of the Brevard Little Theatre scrapbooks, it is readily
apparent that those early years of the "second incarnation" were busy and
highly successful ones. Those dedicated and hard-working "pioneers"
gave us a good, solid foundation on which to build over the years; and
they obviously had a wonderful time doing it. Today, that fine tradition is
still in good hands as Brevard Little Theatre rolls on toward the next 50
years of providing live theater as a community service.
|Jeanette Austin was a long-time member of
Brevard Little Theatre and an award-winning
BLT actress and director.