Gulfport Little Theatre is a non-profit community theatre founded in 1946 to foster and develop -- through productions, theatrical workshops, allied education, cultural events and other activities -- the artistic talents and skills of members of the community and other interested persons.
Recognized as one of the Coast’s most diverse theatrical venues, GLT has grown from its humble beginnings in Jones Park to a program that includes shows of every size for every taste, from intimate dramas to large scale musicals involving performers of all ages.
In addition to an active performance schedule, GLT provides performance opportunities to local theatre artists and promotes appreciation for the arts through youth programs, school performances, and community outreach.
Lori Grove, Chairman
Elizabeth Schoen, Vice Chair
Kim Verheeck, Treasurer
Amantha Johnson, Secretary
Brett Byrd, Public Relations
Charles Davis, Building and Grounds
In the summer of 1946, under the inspiration of Norwood Scarbourough, the Gulfport Little Theatre organization was initiated. Mrs. James (Ethelynd) Baxley was advisor to the group composed of college and high school students. THE VISITORS, a three-act play was produced in August. The cast included Mary Brash, who was also president of the organization, Joyce Barret, Hal Benson, Carolyn Wink, Bobby Griffin, Dick Berry, D.C. Dubois, Tommy Thompson, Annette Simmons, Julius Muelling, and Charles Bailey.
Just before the members of the group were to return to their various schools, it was decided to make a canvas of the community in an effort to make the organization permanent. Among those who responded to the telephone calls made by the young people, were Mr. and Mrs. Lee Zolloman who, with Charles Bailey, agreed to write letters to a greater number. As a result, twenty-eight interested persons were present at a special called meeting.
The idea took hold and the membership grew. The governing board was made permanent. Mr. Harold Barber was elected chairman and plans of the permanent organization adopted. The Gulfport Little Theatre was accepted as the name. All productions from that time, and still currently, is a culmination of the spontaneous response to the idea projected by the original group of Gulfport’s young citizens.
In the beginning: In 1945, Ethelynd Baxley, Lee and Betty Zollman founded Gulfport Little Theatre. On November 21, 1946, Gulfport Little Theatre opened for its first ever production in the Gulfport High School Auditorium. The title of the play was “The Night of January 16th.”
Building a home: After years of fund-raising and work, GLT was able to plan construction of its home at the corner of US 90 at 25th Avenue. The project was led by Zollman, who died before its completion, and Ellsworth Rauth, who carried out the plans. Baxley cut the ribbon at the Lee Zollman Playhouse in 1964. The theater was not only large enough for musicals, it managed to hold Baxley's large children's productions, including Wizard of Oz. But the playhouse was short-lived. On August 16, 1969 Hurricane Camille blew their dreams away, leaving a concrete slab.
The show must go on: For about three years GLT used an abandoned grocery store off Thornton Avenue as their stage. It was called the Second Street Playhouse. By 1972, the GLT board had raised the money to build the Deborah Place Theater on land donated by Harold Barber and Lula Anderson.
No place like home: Gulfport Little Theatre establishes a new home near Pass Road and 13th Avenue, where we continue to perform quality theatre and educate performers in the art of stagecraft. We have been offering continuous quality theatre to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 73 years without ever having a dark season.
According to a 1995 Sun-Herald interview as we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, Ms. Baxley said, “Some aspects of theater have changed over the past 50 years, but one thing remains the same, the people who work in theater are strictly a group of people that do it for love." GLT exists because of the community and for the community. We believe that everyone should feel welcome and can have a place to call their home. We want YOU to feel at home with us, whether it is on the stage, behind the scenes, helping in the lobby, or simply just enjoying the talent that surrounds you, GLT has a place just for you!