Ladysmith Little Theatre -- A History
To date Ladysmith Little Theatre was the dream and vision of Judi & Terry Whittaker.
The Old Diamond School House at 4985 Christie Road, Ladysmith, was empty and in October 2003 the Whittaker’s arranged with Nanaimo Ladysmith School District #68 to view the building.
Built in 1912, Diamond School had originally been a one room school, with an additional room added sometime during the fifties. The building had been vacant since approximately 1985.
As soon as the Whittaker’s entered the building they knew this was exactly what they were looking for and arranged to meet with the School Division to discuss the purchase or lease of the facility to turn the old school into a live theatre. A five year renewable lease was signed in December, 2003.
The name ‘Lady Smith’s Little Theatre’ had already been registered, with BC Registries and an application was made to the BC Societies Act to form a not-for-profit theatre society under the same name. The Theatre name came from Lady Smith, the wife of Sir Harry Smith, an officer in the Boer War in South Africa.
In January 2004, work began to transform the building into an actual theatre. A supporting wall which separated the two class rooms was removed and a support beam, designed by Pacific Truss, was installed. This huge undertaking was accomplished by Terry Whittaker, Bruce Mason and numerous community volunteers in less than 6 weeks.
This room became the main auditorium. A raised stage was built, as well as a control booth for lighting and sound equipment, and a small dressing room. The theatre lobby which had formally been used as a cloakroom and locker room was completely redecorated and carpeted. A staff room was made over into a kitchen and 220v wiring was installed. A basic sound system was also installed. Chairs were purchased and tables constructed and although very raw looking the theatre was ready for an audience.
With the support of dozens of community volunteers, the theatre doors opened to an invited audience on March 24, 2004 with an Open House, Potluck Supper, and Variety Show. It was a great success.
During that first summer, Judi and Terry Whittaker performed The Bull and Bush Pub Show and the British Pub set for this production was the inspiration for the auditorium decor.
Judi and Terry Whittaker, Bruce Mason and hundreds of community volunteers worked tirelessly over the next 5 years and success of the theatre steadily grew. In the summer of 2009, the Whittaker’s decided to retire and move to Nanaimo. The Butler Did It being their final production.
The new Board’s goals have been to see our diamond in the rough turn into the true gem that it is and continue to produce high caliber productions for Ladysmith and the surrounding communities and for the theatre to become an integral part of the Ladysmith community.
The decision was made to name the theatre company Ladysmith Players Society and rename the theatre Ladysmith Little Theatre. We have since renewed our lease with the School Board. On September 12th, 2010, Ladysmith Players hosted our first community event and open house, Behind the Scenes.
Today everyone involved in the theatre are members; our board, actors, crew, technicians, set designers, construction crew, box office and front of house volunteers. It is our members who keep the theatre alive and growing.
The Board has developed marketing and advertising strategies to promote and support our productions and continues to work to ensure our shows are of the highest caliber possible. The 2009-10 has been the theatre’s most successful season to date. And 2010-11 season looks like it will set a new attendance record.
We hope to continue to grow and to provide quality community theatre for Ladysmith and the surrounding communities.
Thank you for your continued support.
The Board of Ladysmith Players Society