By Bob Henley | February 13, 2013
Located on southwest Florida’s beautiful gulf coast, Venice Theatre is the third-largest community theatre in the United States and the largest per capita. Venice theatre a non-profit, organization that has been providing entertainment, education and outreach to our community since 1950.
|History of the Venice Theatre|
|1950 Venice Little Theatre (VLT) is formed by 40 volunteers. The theatre presents a three-show season in a converted hangar at Venice Airport.
1956-57 Total attendance for the four-production season is 1,440.
1972 The company is forced to leave the airport theatre. The city needs the building for a storage shed. After plans to construct a new building are thwarted by petitions from its new neighbors, VLT purchases one of Venice’s original 1926 buildings, the former gymnasium of Kentucky Military Institute. Theatre seats 286. Local media calls VLT “the little theatre that wouldn’t die.”
1987-89 The theatre hires an artistic director. Total attendance is 14,000.
1993 Total attendance tops 20,000 for the first time. Operating budget nears $400K. After-school classes begin with one class per week. The Silver Foxes, a seniors-only performance troupe, meets for the first time.
1995 Staff positions are realigned to include an Artistic/Managing Director. Partnership is formed with LovelandCenter (for adults with developmental disabilites).
Stage II opens its first full subscription season, 1995-96. There are 25 subscribers.
1997 MainStage attendance exceeds 43,000. Budget is $675,000 in 1997-98. Summer camps expand to three full “TheatreFests”, involving 108 students. Year-round class enrollment tops 100 for the first time, with five classes per semester.
1998 In an independent study, VLT is revealed as the second most-frequently-attended theatre in SarasotaCounty (behind the Asolo).
2000 VLT completes $2 million-plus, four-phase renovation. Facility is now A.D.A. compliant, seats 432 in MainStage and 90 in Stage II, contains multiple classroom / rehearsal spaces and features upgraded production equipment and facilities.
2001 VLT’s production of Fool For Love takes Best Production Honors at Florida Theatre Conference (2nd consecutive year for VLT), Southeastern Theatre Conference and joins 10 other shows nationally at AACTFest in Harrisburg, PA. VLT brings home the first national award for a Southwest Florida theatre.
Total attendance exceeds 68,000.
2002 VLT’s production of Tartuffe takes Best Production Honors at Florida Theatre Conference and Southeastern Theatre Conference.
VLT hires full-time Development/Advancement Director.
2002-2003 VLT’s The Good Woman of Setzuan takes Best Production Honors at Florida Theatre Conference and Southeastern Theatre Conference. This is the fourth consecutive year at FTC and the third consecutive at SETC. The show is recognized at AACTFest in Torrington, CT with four awards.
Stage II, in its 8th season, sees dramatic increase in subscription sales, from 245 to 405. Total attendance nears 90%, with expanded performance runs.
VLT is officially commended by both the City of Venice and Sarasota County governments for “Outstanding
2003-2004 With grants from local foundation and the City of Venice, VLT purchases adjacent building and parking lot for $750,000. Immediate effect is that off-site storage becomes on-site. VLT saves $13,000 per year in space rental..
2008 Venice Little Theatre is selected to host the 2010 International Community Theatre Festival.
Venice Little Theatre officially changes name – with unanimous board support – to Venice Theatre. We’re not “little” anymore!
2010 Venice Theatre hosts the Festival in Paradise, bringing the AACT International Community Theatre Festival to Venice. Because of the tremendous success, AACT invites VT to host it again in 2014. (The only time the same theatre hosts the international festival twice in a row.)