Hendersonville Little Theatre was born in January 1966 when a small group of theater enthusiasts met to organize a new theater group. They appointed a 10-member board of directors, and Ken Johnson was named President.
With money from 54 friends who bought patron memberships on faith, the group leased and remodeled a storage building on Haywood Road owned by Clifton Shipman. Chairs had to be rented from Shepherd’s Funeral Horne and carted to and from the theater. There was one 5′ by 10′ dressing room, and the actors had to step outside to change their minds! The “curtains” were folding wooden doors; two youngsters sat in the front row and, at a signal from the director, leaped into action to reveal or conceal the stage.
HLT’s first production was William Inge’s “Bus Stop”, directed by Kate Bertram and designed by Jan Clausing, retired Art Director for Radio City Music Hall. The lead male actor, Doug Brooks, appeared on stage with both arms heavily bandaged from severe burns received only the day before opening. Hamming it up, a few of the people connected with the production paraded through downtown Hendersonville in their jalopies to promote the play. . It was a sight to behold and all three performances sold out immediately. The show was held over for two more performances.
In 1969 HLT moved to 1025 State Street, which its loyal patrons affectionately dubbed “the Barn.” Built by Clif Shipman, the Barn had been a riding stable and dance hall for the community in the 1940s. A group of dedicated workers led by then-president Jan Clausing began extensive remodeling and the old Hendersonville Riding Club was transformed into a comfortable little theater seating 121 patrons. Working day and night, they opened in their new home with a production of William Inge’s “Picnic”, and theatergoers have been enjoying the unique ambiance of the old barn ever since.
In 1973 came HLT’s first full-costume production: Maxwell Anderson’s “Anne of the Thousand Days. ” Some 50 period costumes were borrowed; hundreds of hours of preparation by a dedicated crew of volunteers brought this impressive production to the HLT stage. Since then, HLT has gone on to produce a wide variety of plays: comedies, dramas, mysteries, musicals, farces, melodramas… When you come to see a production at the Barn, a stroll along the framed posters mounted on the walls of the theater will give you a sense of the range of HLT’s work over the years.
A New Home for HLT
Press Release June 23, 2011
Hendersonville Little Theatre (HLT) is pleased to announce the purchase of a building at 229 S. Washington Street across from the Habitat for Humanity Offices and Store in Hendersonville, NC. Previously known as the “Old Stone Church” by many in the community, the main building is ideally suited for transformation into a live-performance theater. When Phase 1 remodeling is completed, HLT will join Flat Rock Playhouse in making downtown Hendersonville a regional hub for theatrical productions.
HLT is a non-profit, wholly volunteer organization; we are very proud of all our accomplishments; to continue to make HLT an ever-better organization that can offer ever-better theater to Hendersonville and our surrounding community, we need people like you.