The 2016-2017 Season was an incredibly important year for the Little Theatre, a year that was the culmination of several years of steady growth since 2012. And now, as we launch our 2017-2018 Season, we are thrilled to announce to you what is next for this amazing institution.
But before we look to the future, it’s important to fully understand the incredible milestones our theatre has crossed in its 70 year history.
The Back Story
This theatre, like most, was created by a small group of people in the summer of 1947. These 10-15 theatre-lovers, swept up in the last wave of the larger Little Theatre movement across the country, recognized the need for an organized drama troupe in San Luis Obispo, and, late in 1947, decided on the name San Luis Obispo Little Theatre and began rehearsals for their first production: Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which opened at the San Luis Obispo High School Auditorium in early 1948.
For the first 60-65 years, SLO Little Theatre functioned as a non-profit community theatre, completely dependent on local volunteers to fill out the casts. Over the past five years, due to audience demand and a desire to grow artistically, we have begun to bring in professional directors and actors for key roles, while still utilizing our talented pool of local artists. Our audiences have responded enthusiastically:
- Season ticket sales have increased by nearly 50% since 2012.
- The Academy of Creative Theatre, our year-round educational program for Young performers, now in its 15th year, is over capacity. Nearly every class, camp and workshop has a wait-list, and the only thing that is keeping this program from expanding is our lack of space (both in our building and on the calendar.)
- Attendance at our performances average 94% of capacity and over half of all performances sell out completely.
- Over 20,000 patrons now attend the Little Theatre each year, larger than the annual audiences for the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Festival Mozaic, Opera SLO and the Civic Ballet combined!
Not that this is a competition! These are our friends and colleagues in the arts. But it’s important to note that these organizations are consistently perceived as being significantly more powerful economic drivers for our community than the Little Theatre, when in reality, we’re bringing more people into our 97 seat theatre each year than all four of these other incredible organizations combined.
In short, our organization is thriving. We’re bursting at the seams. We’re ready for the next step.
A New Home
The City of San Luis Obispo has graciously offered us a beautiful location for a new theatre at the corner of Monterey and Nipomo in the heart of the city’s Cultural District. Our task now is to raise the money needed to build a brand new theatre. But we had to face a hard truth: The results of a rigorous feasibility study in 2016 made it clear to us that it would be very difficult to run a successful multi-million dollar capital campaign as a non-profit community theatre. (Image courtesy of Bryce Engstrom: Architect)
A New Name
In order to conduct a successful campaign and to more accurately reflect our mission and goals, our Board of Directors unanimously concluded that it is time to publicly recognize changes that have already taken place as well as reward the dedicated, professional work of our artists. It is time to officially become the premier live theatre of this City and County. To continue the growth we have experienced for the last 5, the last 30, the last 70 years, it is time for us to become the only non-profit professional theatre in San Luis Obispo County. That is why, as we begin our 71st Season, we are transitioning to a fully professional regional theatre model and rebranding as the San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre, or SLO REP.
Repertory – The Right Word
By changing only one word, we are clearly defining the internal and external changes that we have already made. Our theatre company is no longer “little.” Nor are we following the precepts of the renowned Little Theatre movement, which peaked in the early part of the last century. In the theatre world, “Repertory” implies “professional reputation” and immediately distinguishes us from the 13 active community theatres within 50 miles of our stage. Most important, “Repertory” speaks to our larger vision of becoming a nationally recognized regional theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo.
1. a company that performs different plays in the course of a season
2. a theatre in which such a company performs
3. the production and presentation of plays by a repertory company
Building the Future
Nothing enhances and energizes a city like having a successful, professional, theatre in its downtown core. This strategic rebranding will position our organization to succeed in our campaign for a new building and to fulfill our vision of becoming a nationally recognized regional theatre and a major economic driver for San Luis Obispo, drawing visitors from near and far to experience everything that our wonderful City has to offer.
Within just a few years, we believe that tickets to SLO REP will be a necessary addition to tourist vacation agendas. And the best part? We have something playing 5 days a week on 45 out of 52 weeks a year.
We are extremely proud of our history as the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. Thousands of dedicated volunteers over 70 years made this organization what it is today. Thanks to all of them, we are ready to take the next step. We are thrilled to begin building our future as SLO Rep.
A New Logo
Live theatre is not perfect. That is part of what makes it special. An element of “the unexpected” is ever present. Not everything is as it seems on the surface and a more meaningful story is soon to be discovered. Our new logo, designed by locally-owned Subplot Studio, reflects these multiple facets. The casual but elegant type above “REP” reflects San Luis Obispo’s easygoing nature. The interaction of very simple shapes make up a more complex story, hinting that there is more there than meets the eye. There are extraordinary stories yet to be revealed.
San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre