The Little Theatre That Could

My Experiences with
“The Little Theatre That Could”
by Steven LaVigne

Little did I know that day in 1982 when I walked into the Corcoran Neighborhood Center in south Minneapolis that it would become a huge part of my life. Their ad stated they needed a director for “Blithe Spirit”, a play I knew well.  After my interview with John Dickinson, the park’s Director, I was hired to stage the play for a new theater group called Corcoran Park Players. This was CPP’s second show (the first was “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”).  Neighborhood residents (mostly) made up the cast of “Blithe Spirit”, and the production was so well-received, John told me I’d be asked back to direct again.

In early 1983 a Board of Directors was assembled, and we scheduled a season of five productions – including three summer shows in a building that wasn’t air conditioned. I was pleased to direct Garson Kanin’s comedy “Born Yesterday”, which worked quite well as a dinner theater production.  It was a busy year but our development as a theater group had begun.

Over the years I generally directed one show a year – including such favorites as “The Good Doctor”, “Moon for the Misbegotten”, “Anna Christie”, and “The Dresser”.  Our theater gradually did fewer shows, but usually much more lavish productions.  In 2002 we made the decision to leave the park, and concentrated on doing smaller shows at Minneapolis Fringe Festivals, MACT-Fests and FASTFests.  Our venues included Dreamland Arts, the Lowry Lab, and the People’s Center, as  well as performing at MACTfests in Albert Lea, St Cloud, Fergus Falls, and others.

 I took time off to earn a Master’s Degree in Education, but returned in 2005 to direct Paul Osborn’s beautiful play, “Morning’s at Seven”.  I also was lucky enough to direct the last official production, “The Rivals” for CPP and the first official play , “Miss Lulu Bett,” for our now re-imagined theater, Classics Lost ‘N’ Found Theater Company.

Yes indeed – it was in 2017, during rehearsals for “The Rivals” that we realized that all of us involved wanted to go back to producing full scale productions again.  We also made the decision to change our mission statement to concentrate on producing little-seen classical plays and/or original scripts by company members.  “Romeo and Juliet” and Moliere’s “The Miser” (updated to 1930’s Paris) were two such classical scripts I directed for CLNFC as well as several of my original scripts for “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”, “Queen Enid”, and “Dick Whittington and His Cat”.  My adaption of the Sherlock Holmes mystery, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, was produced by CLFTC in 2021, and I’m now at work on “Charley’s Aunt”, our upcoming 2024 spriing production.

Classics Lost ‘N’ Found Theater Company is now happily ensconced at our very welcoming new home at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in south Minneapolis, and we currently perform four full-scale productions a year – including an annual outdoor production at Nokomis Park. We now attract actors, techies, and audience members through the Twin Cities and suburbs, and we are now in the midst of planning our 42nd year, including a hopeful return to 2024’s FASTFest! From humble beginnings in a city park’s community building, we’ve always been “the little theater that could!” and we’ll continue for as long as possible.