ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County experienced a radical change in the aftermath of World War II. The population of Rockville and surrounding areas swelled as thousands of people moved to take jobs with federal government contractors, the county schools and government and technology companies. And during that time, people from various occupations have come to Rockville Little Theatre to watch and participate in the production of a wide variety of plays.
The community theater company inaugurated its 70th season Sept. 22 through Oct. 1 with a production of the play “Almost, Maine,” by John Cariani, which was featured in last week’s review by The Sentinel’s Barbara Trainin Blank. Set in a quasi-mythical Maine town, the frequently-produced play features a series of interrelated vignettes in which characters attempt, with varying degrees of success, to achieve romantic connections.
For the 70th anniversary, Anne Cary, an active member of Rockville Little Theatre, compiled a history of the company, which played an integral part in the development of Montgomery County’s cultural scene.
“Sometime in 1947, six friends decided that Rockville needed its own little theater troupe,” Cary said. “The founders were Miss Pamela Bairsto, Miss Betty Sherman, Miss Murray Hamilton, Mrs. Margaret Eddy, Mrs. Madeline Davis and Rev. Raymond Black of Christ Episcopal Parish, which was the site of the first production, Noel Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’ in the Parish Hall on Nov. 26, 1948. Rockville Little Theatre was launched.”
Cary said that the company has expanded along with the county’s population.
“By 1950, Rockville’s population had almost tripled to just under 7,000,” Cary said. “RLT was a member of the Rockville Civic Association. Audiences were also growing and by 1957, RLT outgrew the parish hall. After one run at the Olney Theater of ‘The Seven Year Itch,’ the group returned briefly to Christ Episcopal before moving to Broome Junior High. In the mid-50s, Rockville underwent a major political upheaval. Failure of the city’s water supply led to concerted civic action to replace the incumbent mayor and council with a reform slate. The reform movement overflowed into many civic organizations, including Rockville Little Theater, where many of the reformers were also members. In 1955, RLT became the first organization to contribute cash towards the project of building a new civic center on the Glenview Mansion grounds. In 1960, Rockville’s population had grown to 26,000 and RLT moved into its new home at the Civic Center.”
In all, Rockville Little Theatre has mounted 291 productions since its inception.
“It’s a really strong community,” said Jennifer Dorsey, assistant director of “Almost, Maine,” her eighth production with the company. “Even when new people come, they’re brought in very quickly and become a valued part of the team.”
“I really just like being part of the creative process, bringing a show to the stage,” said Dean Fiala, president of Rockville Little Theatre’s board of directors and producer of “Almost, Maine.”
“I love when you start with a script and a bunch of people who want to bring that script to that stage,” Fiala said, “It’s really magical.”
For more information about upcoming productions, visit RLT’s website at www.rlt-online.org.