Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 22, Number 2, Fall 2010 Page: 42
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and the Little Theatre
By EMILY GEORGE GRUBBS
eginning in 1920, the Little Theatre of Dallas
brought the art of the theatre to the growing
community of Dallas, and quickly began to
encourage area visual artists to join in the bur-
geoning little theatre community. For example,
the captivating block print on the program cover
for The Young Idea by O'Neil Ford represents the
valuable contributions to the little theatre by
him and other artists including Jerry Bywaters,
Alexandre Hogue, and Perry Nichols. Over the
years, their work was part of a unique and fruit-
ful collaboration between local artists and the
theatre at the height of Texas Regionalism dur-
ing the 1930s.
A brief background of the development of
the Dallas Little Theatre is necessary to under-
stand the relationship between the theatre and
area artists. During the early 1920s, little theatres
were founded in towns and cities across the
United States. These were essentially communi-
ty theatres, funded entirely by box office receipts
and community donations. Dallas's organization
was established in 1920 when Mrs. C. E Weiland
organized the Dramatic Department of the
Dallas Woman's Forum and hired Talbot Pearson
as the director.The organization was incorporat-
ed as the Little Theatre of Dallas on January 7,
1921, and was governed by a board of directors.
The little theatre had several dramatic directors
after Pearson resigned as director in 1921,
including Lena Budd Powers and Alexander
Dean. However, in 1923, the theatre's board took
the wise step of hiring Oliver Hinsdell, whose
expertise in directing ushered in a very success-
ful era for the little theatre.Also, that year the first
permanent home for the theatre was built on
Olive Street.' Hinsdell brought the theatre to a
new level of achievement and recognition on the
national level. Under his leadership, the Dallas
Little Theatre won the coveted Belasco Cup at
the National Little Theatre Tournament in New
York City for three consecutive years with pro-
ductions of Judge Lynch (1924), The No' Count
Boy (1925), and El Cristo (1926). These produc-
tions also initiated collaboration with the visual
arts community in Dallas, as Olin Travis designed
the set for Judge Lynch, while Alexander Hogue
and Allie Tennant executed the scenery for El
In 1926, Dallas also led the little theatre
world by hosting the first regional little theatre
tournament in the country, the Texas Little
Theatre Tournament and Conference. From
1926 to 1931, the theatre attracted several mem-
bers of the visual arts community as set painters
and program cover designers. In 1927, the Dallas
Little Theatre moved into a new (and expensive)
home on Maple Avenue designed by Dallas
architect Henry Coke Knight.2 In 1931, Oliver
Hinsdell resigned to take a position at MGM in
42 LEGACIES Fall 2010
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 22, Number 2, Fall 2010, periodical, 2010; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146050/m1/44/: accessed July 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.