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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The history of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association Nesbitt, Carol Dell


The thesis covers the history of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association (VLTA), one of the oldest amateur theatre groups in Canada. The subject was chosen partly because of the shortage of informative papers written on the histories of amateur theatre in Vancouver. As there has been very little written on this subject, the majority of the research was done with primary sources, most of which were in the VLTA archival collection at the City of Vancouver Archives. The VLTA was founded in 1921 by a group of people inspired by the art theatre movement in Europe. The Association proved to be very popular from its inception, and was able to buy a theatre building by its third season. The building was its home base until 1978. The Depression at the end of the 1920s dramatically affected the VLTA, and the company, once financially successful and widely accepted, lost much of its stability and following. From then on, most of the history of the VLTA is a struggle for survival. During the Second World War, the Association helped with the war effort, either by raising money for war charities or by giving performances for servicemen. At the end of the war, professional theatre began to emerge in Vancouver, and the VLTA had much competition. This early professionalism led to the building of Vancouver’s civic theatres in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as the founding of smaller, alternative, professional theatre companies of the 1970s. The Little Theatre found that it could not compete with these new movements. The Association’s position in the Vancouver theatre scene was forced to change. The Introduction presents a brief overview of the theatrical ongoings in Vancouver before the inception of VLTA, as well as the reasons behind the creation of the Little Theatre. Chapters Two to Five cover the main part of VLTA’s history, from its inception in 1921 to the selling of the York Theatre building in 1978. Chapter Six brings up to date the rest of VLTA’s history and discusses whether the VLTA succeeded in its original mandates. It also considers why VLTA remained amateur, while other little theatres in Canada turned professional. The thesis will cover the internal workings of VLTA as a company, and its position in the Vancouver Theatre scene in comparison to other theatrical happenings in the city.

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