This article is the fourth in our series on the 14 capital projects that failed to get funded by the Oregon Legislature in 2023. Only two were funded at $4 million, both in the Portland area. The 14 smaller projects total $7.8 million and are spread throughout the state, mostly in rural areas.
The Very Little Theatre, a cornerstone of Eugene’s cultural landscape for nearly a century, is on the brink of an exciting transformation. Plans are under way to renovate and remodel one of the oldest theatres in the country, ensuring it remains a vibrant hub for artistic expression and community engagement for generations to come.
Founded in 1929, the Very Little Theatre has long been a sanctuary for performers and audiences alike. However, with the passage of time, the theatre has outgrown its space. The expansion broadens community accessibility and elevates the experience for volunteers and patrons, all while preserving the theatre’s distinctive charm.
The project’s significance
“At the moment the set for the next show is starting to be built on the stage,” explains Ron Evans, executive director. “And a bunch of community groups, including dance companies, children’s theatre groups, and others are contacting us to use the space, and we can’t fit them in because of the set being built.”
The Very Little Theatre plans to build a new scene shop as an addition to their main stage building, so all the sets then can be built in the scene shop, freeing up the main stage for use by community groups and smaller theatre programs.
The theatre’s renovation and expansion project carries immense importance on multiple fronts:
- Preserving heritage: The renovation efforts will safeguard the building’s architectural and historical significance, allowing future generations to appreciate the richness of Eugene’s performing arts heritage.
- Fostering artistic growth: The upgraded facilities will provide artists with cutting-edge resources, empowering them to explore their craft to its fullest potential. This investment in the creative process is expected to yield more compelling and impactful productions.
- Strengthening community bonds: The Very Little Theatre has been a space for people from all walks of life to come together, forging a sense of unity and shared cultural experiences. The renovation project ensures this tradition continues, guaranteeing the theatre remains a vital nexus for community engagement.
- Enhancing accessibility: The project places a strong emphasis on accessibility, making the theatre more inclusive for all members of our community. This commitment reflects the theatre’s dedication to serving a diverse and vibrant audience.
“This renovation isn’t just about updating a building; it’s about revitalizing a space that holds a special place in the hearts of so many,” continues Ron Evans. “The Very Little Theatre has been a cultural cornerstone for our community for nearly a century. It’s where people come together to share stories, to learn, and to connect. This project is about ensuring that legacy continues for generations to come.”
A beacon of artistic expression
Ron Evans explains, “We are truly a community theater. We welcome anyone who wants to be a part of telling the story. You don’t have to have any experience. You can literally walk in off the street and say, ‘I’d love to get involved.’”
The Very Little Theatre has been run by volunteers since 1929, when a bunch of people wanted to do a show. Ron is the first permanent executive director. “You can walk in off the street here and say, I’d like to get involved with the lights or working backstage. Where do I find out how to audition?” Each show features people who have never acted before in their whole lives.
With a clear vision, unwavering dedication, and community support, this project will breathe new life into the theatre, securing its place as a beacon of artistic expression in the Willamette Valley for years to come. We urge the Oregon Legislature to fund the Very Little Theatre’s expansion.