History of Alverson Center Theatre
ACT: A Brief History
The Alverson Center Theatre, more affectionately known as A.C.T., has a rich and varied history extending over seventy years. The Anderson Little Theatre Guild was organized in November of 1935 with the goal of bringing a touch of Broadway to our community; on March 26, 1936 it presented its very first performance, “The Late Christopher Bean” a comedy written by Sidney Howard. At the beginning of that first season, the Anderson Little Theatre Guild had a total of thirty-eight members. By the end of the 1937-38 seasons, five plays had been performed and membership had grown to 268.
The Anderson Little Theatre Guild disbanded at the beginning of the World War II and was not reorganized until 1947. The production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” became one of the theatre’s most successful productions by 1948. Over the next twenty years, the Theatre constantly grew and improved, delighting audiences with man divers exciting performances.
In 1968, the Anderson Little theatre Guild was officially renamed the Anderson Community Theatre. Because the theatre was continuing to expand, it needed a professional director of the Anderson Community Theatre. A native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Filipo had an extensive background in summer stock and university plays and guided the A.C.T. through its first big musical; “Brigadoon” Filipo began reaching into the greater Anderson community to find talented actors, musicians and other volunteers to help bring even higher quality performances to the A.C.T. Also, for the first time, performances began running for several nights.
By 1972, The Anderson Community Theatre needed a building of its own. The State Theatre, an Anderson Landmark, was purchased and has been the home of the A.C.T. for the past thirty-five years. In the early 1930’s a portion of the facility burned and was rebuilt as a movie palace. The architecture has been maintained in its stream-lined art deco motif, both interior and exterior creating unmatched nostalgia and ambiance.
In 1973 Bill Splawn brought a wealth of experience and artistic knowledge to our community. He came to Anderson and served as talented, dedicated director of A.C.T. Splawn’s talents manifested from his performance experiences in Hollywood, New York, and London. During this time in the 1970’s such Hollywood notables as Burt Lancaster and Loan Fontaine attended performances at A.C.T. During Splawn’s twenty-one year tenure, more than 100 shows were produced with over 1100 different performers. Splawn was talented dedicated and entertained Anderson through A.C.T. as director until his death in 1994.
By 1996, Robb Alverson had become the A.C.T. theatre’s Executive Artistic Director and has guided it to new and exciting heights. Alverson mission at A.C.T. is to provide direction, insight and talented educators to aspiring Artist that enables them to develop their talent in the Arts. In December 1996, many of Anderson’s young performers were invited to perform at UNICEF’s 50th Anniversary celebration in New York City. The following June, two Radio City Music Hall Rockettes came to Anderson for our first young people’s professional workshop program. A.C.T.’s program strives to provide a solid foundation for aspiring dedicated performers. The theatre continues to conduct successful workshop programs lead by professionals such as Kimilee Bryant, who starred as Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and is currently in the original cat of “The Pirate Queen” on Broadway. Dance is also a vital part of this training program having had the Columbia City Ballet under the artistic direction of William Starrett and instructions by Julian Harper Brown to conduct extensive ballet classes. Myra Cordell, internationally renowned opera singer, held a workshop on the importance of the appreciation of opera in the world today. Charles Goddertz, New York Choreographer and tap instructor, shared the lost Art of rhythm tap with the young people of A.C.T. and choreographed its most recent production, “Dames at Sea”.
In 2000, The Anderson Community Theatre dissolved and was reorganized as the Alverson Center Theatre A.C.T. It is currently recognized as a small professional dinner theatre with catering by Sullivan’s Restaurant for each opening night gala. A.C.T. pays special attention to the details of every aspect of its productions. Over the past eighty years talented, dedicated individuals have worked diligently to bring make A.C.T. a very special place. All of the people, both past and present, should know that they have succeeded in reaching their goal.
Proclamation Celebrating Alverson Center Theatre’s 75th Anniversary | Dated November 8, 2010
ACT Celebrates 75 Years of Providing Quality Theatre to Anderson
On March 26, 1936, The Little Theatre League of Anderson performed their first show, “The Late Christopher Bean” at the criterion Theatre on the corner of Murray and Whitner Streets. That building has long since been demolished, but the site is where the Holman Insurance agency building is located today. That show was just the beginning of 75 wonderful years filled with performance to delight the citizens of our community. A.C.T. is the oldest Arts organization in Anderson.
In the years to follow, many people were instrumental in developing the League, cultivating volunteers, creating and building sets, directing, and training new actors and actresses to take the stage. Some of those names include Dorothy Townsend, Billy Poliakoff, the Holman Family, the Stathakis Family, Eve Stephenson, the Maynard Family, Mrs. Jean Perkins, Clyde Bolt and the Garrison Family.
From 1936 to 1954, over 50 musicals and plays were performed. There was a lapse of several years during World War II, when time were tough and men’s roles simply could not be filled, as most of them were overseas fighting for our country. The Little Theatre League moved from the Criterion Theatre to the Campus of Anderson College, then to Boys High, rehearsing using the various auditoriums to stage their productions.
Then, in 1968, G. Same Sanfilippo became the recently renamed Anderson Community Theatre’s first full-time professional managing director. In 1972, A.C.T. was able to purchase the Old State Theatre which is still its home today.
Other important events in our history include the proclamation of the A.C.T. Week September 20-26, 1976 by the Anderson County Council and the Daughters of the American Revolution’s presentation of an American flag to A.C.T. in observance of Constitution Week and A.C.T.’s bicentennial production of “Shenandoah”. The proclamation credited the theatre as an “integral and cogent part of our county’s culture”. In 1977, A.C.T. contributed to a time capsule which the City of Anderson and Mayor Darwin Wright created to be opened in 2077.
Finally, In 1997 Mr. Robb Alverson, a Greer native, and himself a performer on the A.C.T. stage many time, returned to Anderson after living and working in New York City for several years to become the theatre’s Artistic Director. Now, for our 75th Anniversary season, Mr. Alverson and his staff of loyal supporters and volunteers are ready to embark on a very exciting line-up of events to continue to provide the very best quality theatre to the people of Anderson!