History of Little Theatre of Virginia Beach
From notes provided by the late Liz Sills
In March of 1948, Carol Simpson and Liz Sills organized the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach at the old Community House, also known as the USO. At that time, Virginia Beach was a small town surrounded by Princess Anne County, depending largely on Norfolk for its culture. There had been attempts in 1930 and 1936 to get a little theatre going, and from time to time the Princess Anne Women’s Club produced a well-received play, but it was the follies put on by the Junior Women’s Club with help from the Cargill Company of New York that inspired the creation of LTVB. The first general meeting was attended by 150 enthusiastic volunteers at the Cavalier Hotel, most of whom ran when they found out how much work would be involved. With a loan of $300 from the Junior Women’s Club, production got underway.
The first three years were hectic, busy, uncharted. LTVB held workshops, sponsored a radio script contest, entertained Broadway stars appearing in the Norfolk Drama Festival, presented members on numerous radio shows, created a children’s theatre committee, sponsored speakers and helped the professional theatre-go-round get started. The first show, My Sister Eileen, had an ever-changing cast of twenty-six, who rehearsed in offices and hotel lobbies. The show opened in the original W. T. Cooke School auditorium. The theatre survived several years at the Community House (the old USO), where the acoustics were awful, but they let the theatre use the bathhouses for rehearsal.
After Carol Simpson retired, Ruth Mazury took over as director. She had been a Ziegfeld Follies girl for 17 years before switching to drama and had worked with many famous theatre personalities. Ruth Mazury directed four plays per year for 10 years. By this time some of the plays were being produced at the Roland Movie Theatre on 17th Street, where the actors could not get on stage without walking through the men’s room, which then took them outside, down an alley and up some steps. LTVB performed at various other venues, including Virginia Beach High School, the Bay Harbour Club (a dinner theatre in the White Heron) and the Lake Wright Dinner Theatre. In 1972 LTVB moved into its present space at 24th Street and Barberton Drive.