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North Hills Monthly

Butler Little Theatre Entertaining Community for 73 Years

Aug 29, 2014 08:57PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch
Butler Little Theatre (BLT), part of a modest, grassroots form of organized stage enterprise known as the community theater, has been offering a broad range of high-quality live theater performances since 1941. Despite its longevity, many in the area may not know of this hidden treasure because it’s often overshadowed by larger downtown theaters that bring in well-known, national shows.

Sue Collar, president of the theatre’s board of directors, has been involved with BLT for more than 50 years. She has participated in every aspect of the business—from working onstage and backstage, to serving as chairman and in different officer positions. She has even produced a show. She typically puts in one to two nights of work a week at the theatre, and more when a show is playing.

“The theatre puts on five shows a year, which is significant because they are held in a renovated barn which only seats 155 people per performance,” said Collar. “But while most community theaters collect their audiences on a single-ticket sale basis, we’re fortunate to have a steady subscription base.”

The theatre started off very small, but over time and with the help of volunteers, became a steadfast part of the community. The board of directors recently purchased the adjoining house on the property where the barn sits in order to expand, and will use it for rehearsal space and as a second venue for performances; they’ve started a capital campaign to help raise funds for renovations.

“We claim to be the longest continuously operating theatre in Pennsylvania because we’ve produced at least one show per year, even during World War II,” said Collar.

Given the number of competing productions around the region, it would be reasonable to think that attracting quality talent, and an audience, for community theater productions would prove difficult. Despite the lack of significant pay or exposure, however, Collar said that they have little trouble getting good performers or patrons. “If the show is really good, people will come out to see it,” she explained.

The regular season consists of five shows, each having eight performances. This year’s line-up includes King o’ the Moon; The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged); Welcome to the Monkey House; Steel Magnolias and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

In addition to productions, Butler Little Theatre offers workshops and classes that last approximately 12 weeks. “The children’s program is for students in third grade through high school, and is geared toward getting the kids in the community involved,” said Collar. “Through these workshops, students learn to not only perform in a show, but also how to direct and produce a show.”

Information regarding the various programs can be found on Facebook and online at But the most significant marketing tool for the group has been word-of-mouth. “We love getting new people, whether it’s to serve on a crew, usher, handle hospitality or perform onstage — it creates variety. You never know what may happen, and you never know how fun the outcome might be,” said Collar. “We always welcome new people to get involved!”