LTOB celebrates 50 years in GC

The Little Theatre Off Broadway is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

According to Jane Mixer, who has been active with the Grove City theatre since 1963, the organization started in the fall of 1958, with a group of parents from the Richard Avenue School. Mixer said they wanted to start a performance group. The group of parents put on their first play, "Picnic," the following spring.

For several years, the performance group had no place to call home. They put on plays and musicals at local schools and community events. Mixer said in 1966, the group began to perform children’s plays.

"We were trying to raise money for our own place," said Mixer.

The facility that now houses Little Theatre Off Broadway used to be a movie theatre. Mixer said in 1915 Edna Koening built it and ran a movie theatre. It has been said that Ethel, Koening’s blind daughter, would play the piano for the silent movies.

"Ethel is still the resident ghost," said Mixer.

Eventually the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church took over ownership of the building.

Mixer said they held services there until the Catholic church moved into its larger facility just down the road on Broadway.

Mixer said in 1968, the theatre group moved into the space and began performing. They also did regular traveling performances.

Joy Schmitt, who performs for Little Theatre Off Broadway and is in charge of the junior theatre, said the group faced many obstacles in the building they now call home. She said there was a fire in 1978 that destroyed the building. They had to rebuild. Once the renovations were complete, there was a flood.  

"A lot of things happened, but we’re still here and celebrating 50 years," said Schmitt.

Mixer said she not only performs, but she cleans the toilets, cleans linens and paints.

"I do whatever is needed," she said.

Mixer started acting when she was 3 years old. She moved to Grove City in 1955. She is still in productions at the theatre, the last one "Curious Savage."

Schmitt said that in honor of the anniversary celebration, the performance group has brought back shows from past years.

"Right now, we are doing ‘The Sound of Music,’ which is a show we have done in the past. That is our theme this year."

Schmitt is a Grove City resident that performs in and directs plays for the theatre.

"It’s really a place for people who just enjoy performing," said Schmitt. "It’s great for the community."

The Little Theatre Off Broadway is a member of the Ohio Community Theatre Association and the American Association of Community Theatres. It is the oldest community theatre in Franklin County. The group performs six shows each year, two musicals, two comedies and two dramas. They also put on two children’s performances.

The city of Grove City has proclaimed Sept. 16 as Little Theatre Off Broadway Day in honor of the anniversary.

"The Sound of Music" is showing on weekends through Sept. 27. The next auditioning will be for "Blithe Spirit," which will run weekends from Oct. 31 through Nov. 22. For additional information on the theatre or its shows, log onto www.ltob.org.

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