McKeesport, PA 15132
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History of McKeesport Little Theater
In 1960, an informal group known as the Mon-Yough Players, using the facilities of the McKeesport, YWCA, put on the production of Blythe Spirit, under the guidance of Mrs. Phyllis Braveman, a graduate of the Carnegie Tech School of Drama and the wife of a prominent McKeesport physician.
In 1962, under the aegis of Mrs. Braveman and the YWCA, a production of The Boy Friend, directed by Mr. William Buchanan, was performed using the facilities of the White Barn Theater in North Huntington, PA. In 1963, this same group had a production of The Pajama Game performed in the auditorium of McKeesport Vocational High School. The group, spearheaded by Mrs. Braveman and Mr. Buchanan, decided to regroup, naming the organization McKeesport Little Theater.
A church located at the corner of Penny and Jenny Lind Streets in downtown McKeesport, was acquired from attorney Robert Palkowitz in 1963 for the unheard of sum of $1.00, and the group began refitting the building into a playhouse with a fund drive and the ingenuity of members.
They carried theater seats from a nearby synagogue that was remodeled. The ceiling at the entrance/box office area had multicolored egg-carton squares glued on it, and the uneven cement floor had multi-colored 3' squares of rug samples laid geometrically. A veritable Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney "let's do theater" dream had come true.
On June 29, 1965, McKeesport Little Theater was formally incorporated under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania, thereby instituting a 15 person Board of Directors with Mr. P. Joseph Gallagher as President. Official articles of incorporation and by-laws were instituted for the operation of the organization.
In the spring of 1972, after almost 10 seasons of producing four shows a year, a catastrophic fire reduced the playhouse to a shambles. (The fire was started in an abandoned, adjacent building, presumably by vagrants.) The Sound of Music was midway through its run. The then president and director, Ms. Phyllis Gerber, in five days time, led the rebuilding of sets and costumes, transferring the cast to the fourth floor of the Elks Building in McKeesport, and completed the run on schedule. A closed school on Walnut Street in Versailles, PA, was offered by the McKeesport School District, as a new stage venue and the productions continued there for one year.
In the fall of 1974, under the presidency of Ms. Arlene Gallagher, the group purchased, for $75,000, a closed synagogue and adjacent dwelling located at the corner of Coursin Street and Bailey Avenue in McKeesport, PA., where they are still located. The Board of Directors started an era of growth, through fund-raising and extremely well-received productions, that was unparalleled in the Pittsburgh area. They converted the acquired building into a complete community theater facility that was equally commodious to performers as well as patrons.
By July 1983 the assets of the organization had increased to more than $300,000 and consisted of the playhouse and contents, production equipment and furniture, and the adjacent dwelling, which was being used as a facility for the caretakers of all the property.
More than 5,000 patrons each year contribute to the average gross receipts of $30,000. Numerous performers, young and old, cut their teeth on the MLT stage went on to careers or life-styles in the theater, which is an attestation and verification of the attainment of McKeesport Little Theater's goals.
After more than 50 years, this group is still a viable and important institution in the society of the Mon-Valley and with the support of its patrons and members, the McKeesport Little Theater will continue to be so for many years to come.