Get to know the Chagrin Valley Little TheatreMichelle McQuade | June 19, 2018
When it comes to the performing arts in Northern Ohio, one of the most recognizable names is the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre (CVLT). Located along River Street in Chagrin Falls, it features a 262-seat auditorium, a pair of group dressing rooms, and a small shop for show memorabilia and other keepsakes. The building has a second story known as The River Room, where special events are held before and after performances.
Standing the test of time
The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre is a distinguished local icon not just for its entertainment value, but also for its longevity. Delighting audiences since 1930, the CVLT is outranked only by Pennsylvania’s Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre – built in 1922 – as the oldest community theater in the country.
Chagrin Falls owes much of its cultural identity to the CVLT. Before it opened, the community was little more than a sleepy town.
The idea to build a community theater was sparked by local newspaper owner, Alfred Hill, who wrote a column in early 1930 encouraging residents to add a new dimension to the Chagrin Falls lifestyle. His suggestion was to form a local performing group.
Readers responded with enthusiasm and by November that same year, the “Valley Players” was formed. The troupe took the stage at a church gym for a series of one-act plays for its inaugural season. The shows were a huge success, inspiring 50 more people to join.
The Valley Players made the Old Town Hall their home since their second season, until a fire damaged the building in 1943. The troupe resorted to staging shows at schools and other makeshift accommodations until the fall of 1948, when two fundraising programs paved the way for the construction of the current CVLT building.
In November 1949, the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre opened its doors, reviving and further igniting a passion for the performing arts in Chagrin Falls and other surrounding communities.
A place to laugh, cry, and learn
The CVLT stages high quality productions that shine the spotlight on the talented actors from around the area. It is also home to the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra.
Each season features a typical lineup of eight major productions, including three musical shows. Smaller productions are also staged throughout the season at the adjacent Riverstreet Playhouse, a CVLT affiliate.
The CVLT is further celebrated for its contributions to the continuous education and development of the local community. Soon after the River Street location opened, the Theatre began to offer youth theatre and ballet classes. The CVLT’s learning programs later expanded with theater and improv classes for adults.
Today, the Theatre also produces youth-oriented plays focusing on difficult but relevant topics through its Accent On Youth outreach program. Designed as a complement to youth counseling efforts, these shows revolve around sensitive subjects such as physical abuse, substance abuse, sexual assault, and teen suicide.
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