(MUFREESBORO) Within hours on Thursday (9/19/2019), the log cabin theatre at 502 Ewing Boulevard near MTSU, was transformed into a pile of debris. In the blink of an eye, a small crew changed the memories of patrons for the Murfreesboro Little Theatre (MLT), Sunshine Players and other production groups.
As you recall from earlier reports on WGNS, on July 26, 2019, the City of Murfreesboro notified Murfreesboro Little Theatre of its decision to immediately close the city-owned building in which the performing arts group had leased since 2005.
City Building and Codes Director Robert Holtz stated that the building was "structurally unsound."
Fire Marshal Carl Peas said, "During my initial visit to the Playhouse, I noted imminent threats to life safety regarding the lack of working fire alarm or suppression systems, proper emergency egress and exit pathways, or proper stairwell egress. Additionally, the storage of significant amounts of combustibles, and concerns with structural stability present significant danger to responding firefighters even if the building is unoccupied. Thus, I strongly suggested that all public performances at the Playhouse should cease immediately and combustible items stored there should be removed as soon as practical."
Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation's Community Services Executive Director Angela Jackson noted, "Murfreesboro Little Theatre has hosted many programs and community arts events over the years at this site, and a decision like this is never easy and is not taken lightly. However, the most important factor in our decision is public safety. Our Parks and Recreation Department will be working to assist by providing available space in the immediate future to accommodate their children's and community art events."
Demolition Done By City
The razing of the old log cabin theatre was done by city workers. Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation trucks, along with Street Department and Solid Waste dump trucks, excavator, and other heavy equipment were used to clear the Ewing Boulevard property.
History of the Structure
The log cabin structure was built in 1939 by the Youth Council of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). For many years, the Ewing Boulevard structure first served a Scout Lodge.
When Murfreesboro Little Theatre was formed in the 1960s, the scout lodge became a "theatre in the L--not round". In addition, Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department's Sunshine Players was born in the mid 1980s and shared the stage with MLT until 1995 when the Patterson Community Center was built.
Thank You MLT For A "Great Run"
Supporters agree that Murfreesboro Little Theatre had a "great run". This was the premiere off-campus theatrical organization when it was formed in 1962. A regular season for the first decade usually consisted of four productions set-off by a fun-filled fund raising patron's party.
MLT was known for iconic talent like Dot Harrison, Lane Boutwell, June McCash, Grandville Ridley III and Sunshine Player's Terry Ann Womack--along with a long list of others and casts of thousands.
The smallness of the theatre was part of its unique appeal. Audiences felt they were an intimate part of each show. Some were amazed at how elaborate productions written for large theatres were successfully created in this small "L-shaped" area with each member in the audience no more than 4-rows from the stage.
Everything from "Picnic", "Bus Stop", "The Tender Trap", "Evita" and many others were performed stupendously.
As Murfreesboro grew, so did the number of theatre groups, which challenged survival for all of them. MLT again found its niche and continued to serve community needs.
As the curtain falls on this Murfreesboro Little Theatre act, there may be opportunities for future curtain calls. After all, when you combine passionate actors with a dedicated following--great things can happen. And yes, "there is magic in theatre."
NewsRadio WGNS will keep you informed.