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Theatre Lawrence History


Theatre Lawrence partners with volunteers to create and deliver extraordinary theatre and education programs that engage community members of all ages and backgrounds as audience members and participants.


The Theatre began performances in the mid 1970's at the Lawrence Arts Center when that facility was undergoing conversion from a library. Lawrence Community Theatre was organized in 1977 and incorporated as a not for profit in 1978 by a handful of individuals with a "kitty" of $500. Scheduling at the Arts Center led to a gypsy-like existence for LCT with rehearsals scattered around the city, storage in basements, garages and barns and set construction outdoors (subject to birds) or indoors (sometimes subject to leaky roofs and flooding). In its search for additional performance space LCT did shows in South Park, Trinity Episcopal Church and at Teepee Junction.


In 1984 LCT (Lawrence Community Theatre) moved to a former church at 1501 New Hampshire. This facility was purchased and renovated with the help of many community volunteers. In addition to doing major fund raising for professional renovation work, LCT received large amounts of donated services and volunteer labor. Architect, Larry Good and retired KU Technical Director and Lighting Designer Charles Lown collaborated on the planning and oversight of the project. The Theatre opened in January of 1985 with an original script by local playwright John Clifford, entitled I WAS RIGHT HERE A MOMENT AGO.

A fire in December of 2003 did over $150,000 damage to the theatre and its contents. A faulty lighting fixture in the costume storage area was the cause and almost two thirds of the theatre's costumes were destroyed, while the rest of the building suffered extensive smoke damage.

In September of 2010, Lawrence Community Theatre changed its logo and name to THEATRE LAWRENCE to more accurately reflect its scope of its programming and outreach. In May of 2012, Groundbreaking began on the construction of a brand new facility; the aspiration of many years of a Capital Campiagn that continues to this day. In May of 2013, the Theatre moved into its new home and opened with its first show, Ragtime on the "Mary Doveton Stage."


The Theatre produces six to eight major shows each year, an extensive youth program, senior programming, and a script library. Speakers as well as performers are also available for meetings and conventions. Performances by The Travelers, the touring wing of Theatre Lawrence provide murder mystery dinner theatres and cabaret entertainment for convention groups and parties. A musical cabaret is also available for special bookings.

The Theatre is a frequent participant in the American Association of Community Theatre Festival and has garnered both state and regional awards.


A partnership exists with the Lawrence Art Guild whereby different members of that organization exhibit their work during productions.

Cooperative projects and involvement with other community organizations are often sought, and diverse organizations throughout the community have brought wide varieties of interests and expertise to enhance community understanding of various issues.


LCT was an early leader in the presentation of original scripts by community theatres. In 1981, one of Paul Stephen Lim's scripts, FLESH, FLASH AND FRANK HARRIS, premiered at LCT and went on to Off-Broadway production in New York. National attention was also drawn to LCT's presentation of LEE AND THE BOYS IN THE BACKROOM, a work by Mr. Lim, based on a novel and the unpublished correspondence of William Burroughs. In 1991 LCT hosted the opening of BERTHA, THE SEWING MACHINE GIRL, a musical written by two New York playwrights who visited Lawrence to work with director Dr. Lewin Goff.

Works by local playwrights like John Clifford and Betty Laird have been featured, as well as works by Kansas City authors Ron Simonian and Frank Higgins. Partnerships with Emu Theatre have resulted in a citywide Festival of New Playwrights.


Theatre Lawrence is primarily a volunteer organization with a small professional staff. Each year over 400 individuals contribute some 26,000 documented hours of service onstage, backstage, and in committee work. Theatre volunteers are honored each year with the presentation of the "Charley Awards." Named after Charley Oldfather and Charles Lown these awards honor volunteers for hours of service.