New curtains, lights and sound at Little Theatre

New curtains, lights and sound at Little Theatre
Lee Elliott

Joe Compton stands backstage ready to pull the ropes that will open the new curtains at the Little Theatre.


When the winter musical, “Promises, Promises,” opens at the Little Theatre of Tuscarawas County on Feb. 17, it will be in an upgraded facility, thanks to three grants awarded the theater this year.

Through the Reeves Foundation, the Tuscarawas County Community Foundation and a gift from the Kimble Foundation, the theater has been able to replace worn-out curtains, lights and sound equipment.

Grant writers Larissa Carrick and Mary Maxwell were instrumental in applying for aid, which included $19,003, $8,221 and $5,000, respectively, for the projects. Carrick said the curtains were 37 years old and had suffered rips and holes and mold and mildew over time and use.

During the pandemic the Little Theatre Board of Directors voted to install an air infiltration system that would circulate and clean the air, but it was unable to work to its full capacity with the curtains being in such bad condition.

The Reeves Foundation grant enabled the theater to order curtains last year, but production delays kept their installation at bay until this month. Tiffin Scenic Studios Inc. from Tiffin, Ohio provided a royal navy blue main curtain and valance, three travelers in two sections, three pairs of legs, and five borders. All are flame retardant.

Director Rex Huffman said the first curtains in the theater were of a tan burlap texture with an ornamental pattern. “They were installed in 1963 for the opening of ‘The Miracle Worker’ in the new theater building,” he said, “and they served until the 1986-87 season when those that were just removed were installed. We cut the (main curtain) into pieces with one of the ornamental patterns on each so that we could all have a bit of that unique original curtain.”

Huffman remembered having to make scene changes with special lighting. He said at the end of a scene, the cast would freeze, the lights would go to amber and then a blackout. “That was in the days when we only did four shows a year,” he said. “With the theater’s current full seasons, our old curtains have probably done duty for at least 90 some shows.”

Lighting also had become archaic, according to light chair Joe Compton. By adding to the $8,221 grant, the theater was able to purchase $14,000 worth of LED lights. Compton said a majority of the previous lighting instruments were originals, thus energy inefficient and giving off excessive heat.

“The new lights will allow the theater to operate in a safer manner since volunteers will no longer need to climb tall ladders to hang lamps or change lenses and colors. All that can now be performed from the safety of the lighting board,” he said.

The lamps were purchased from Vincent Lighting Solutions.

The house sound system will be fully upgraded, thanks to the gift from the Kimble Foundation. Matt Spies, who has taken on the project for the theater, said the money will provide new speakers, cables, amplifiers and a network cabinet. Through a total rewiring, the upgrade will simplify the system by centralizing controls and power. Sweetwater Sound will provide the equipment.

Grant chair Carrick said the theater is grateful to the foundations that support the community and the arts. “Without them,” she said, “we would still be stuck back more than a half a century.”

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