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Janesville Little Theatre

Who We Are

Janesville Little Theatre is Wisconsin’s oldest community theatre group, and one of the three oldest in the United States. Founded in 1929, the group staged its first major play in 1930 and has produced a series of plays each season, without interruption, ever since.  Janesville Little Theatre membership is open to anyone who is a lover of theatre and supporter of the arts.  Janesville Little Theatre is staffed by community volunteers and governed by a Board of Directors elected by its members.

What is a Little Theatre?

The Little Theatre Movement began in the early 20th Century as a sort of backlash to the exaggerated melodramas that dominated Victorian theatre houses.  Little Theatres began to spring up all over the country to produce experimental or locally created works that dealt with social issues and had more realistic plot lines.  Little Theatres were among the first companies to produce the works of Ibsen, Shaw, and O’Neill.  You’ll see a number of their works listed in the records our Early Years.  While they seem like old classics now, they were quite daring when first produced.

As Melodrama became relegated to motion pictures and realism became the norm for drama, many Little Theatres either turned professional or died out due to competition.  Our area is fortunate to have two surviving Little Theatres:  ourselves, and Beloit Civic Theatre.  You can still see the values of the Little Theatre movement in our Mission Statement.

Our Mission

Our mission today remains the same as it was laid down by our founders:
“The Janesville Little Theatre is a community project founded with a fourfold purpose:
First, to give every member of the community an opportunity for self-expression in the art of acting or in creative work in the allied art of the theatre, and it welcomes all who desire to participate in or encourage these activities;

Second, to present to the community worthwhile drama—classics, modern masterpieces, and original plays—and to provide distinct, unique, or experimental dramatic entertainment for and by its members with the aim of contributing definitely to the advancement of the Little Theatre movement in this country, that drama as an art and an education and spiritual influence may live and fill the dramatic needs of the community;

Third, to create, enlarge, stimulate and educate a drama and theatre-loving public; and

Fourth, to encourage the writing and production of original plays and native drama of the locality by local authors.”

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