Ottawa Little Theatre Timeline

The Ottawa Drama League (ODL), as the Ottawa Little Theatre (OLT) was first known, is founded at a meeting of the Canadian Federation of University Women. The first meeting takes place in May 1913

After a season of attending touring theatre productions, and arranging lectures and play readings, the ODL presents its first staged production at the Russell Theatre on June 5-6 featuring 3 one-act plays: Magic, Riders to the Sea, and The Dear Departed.

The ODL moves to the Auditorium of the Victoria Memorial Museum (now the Canadian Museum of Nature).

Fire destroys the Parliament Buildings. The ODL loses its performance space and moves back to the Russell Theatre when the House of Commons temporarily takes over the Museum Auditorium.

The ODL presents its first Canadian play, The Suffragist by Donald Guthrie, a landmark in the development of Canadian Theatre.

The ODL returns to the Auditorium of the Victoria Memorial Museum.

After successful fundraising begun in 1926, the ODL purchases the Eastern Methodist Church at 400 King Edward Ave. and renovates it into the Little Theatre. On Jan. 3, the ODL’s first permanent home is officially opened with a production of Anthony and Anna by St. John Ervine.

In a co-operative effort with Orpheus Operatic Society, the ODL hosts and participates in its first musical theatre work, The Chocolate Soldier.

The Earl of Bessborough, Governor General of Canada, launches the Dominion Drama Festival at the Little Theatre. The DDF, Canada’s first National Theatre Festival, is hosted at the Little Theatre until 1937 after which it is hosted in a different city each year.

The ODL founds its Workshop to perform experimental plays. The Workshop continues until the early 1960s.

The Ottawa Drama League’s National One-Act Playwriting Competition is inaugurated – and continues to this day. From the 40s to the mid-60s over 70 winning plays are given productions by the Workshop.

ODL donates all proceeds from performances to the war effort but fewer productions are mounted due to shortage of men, so the theatre is rented out as a cinema during its available weeks.

The Junior Theatre, established to offer young people the opportunity to act in productions alongside seasoned performers, presents its first play, Alice in Wonderland.

ODL’s production of Robertson Davies’ Eros at Breakfast tours to the Edinburgh Drama Festival in the UK.

The Ottawa Drama League changes its name to the Ottawa Little Theatre.

The School of the Theatre opens, offering acting classes for children. The Junior Theatre, which had become the Saturday Players in 1951, now becomes the Children’s Theatre, and then in 1959 the Theatre for Children. Under its various names it continues to present plays for children in schools throughout the region until 1985.

OLT commissions and produces The Centennial Play by four of Canada’s foremost writers – Robertson Davies, W.O Mitchell, Arthur Murphy and Yves Theriault.

The Ottawa Little Theatre undergoes a major renovation including reupholstered seats, new carpeting and a redesigned foyer.

On July 1, 1970, the Ottawa Little Theatre is destroyed by fire. Fundraising begins immediately to rebuild at the same location, 400 King Edward Ave. Performances continue at various locations in Ottawa for the next year and a half.

On Feb. 10, 1972, Ottawa Little Theatre’s new building opens with a production of Hadrian the Seventh by Peter Luke. The mortgage is paid off within five years.

Adult drama classes focused on acting begin at OLT.

OLT marks its 75th Anniversary with the publication of a celebrity cookbook.

Iris Winston’s book, Staging A Legend: A History of Ottawa Little Theatre, is released to celebrate the OLT’s 25 years in its new theatre.

After a hiatus from just before the fire in 1970, the OLT again begins entering productions into the EODL (Eastern Ontario Drama League) One-Act Play Festival, and in 2006 the EODL Spring Festival of full-length plays. The One-Act entries are generally prize-winners from the OLT National Playwriting Competition.

The Janigan Studio, a new performance space designed to host small productions and readings, opens at OLT.

OLT’s Summer Theatre is re-introduced after a hiatus of five years.

OLT expands its education program beyond acting. Now called Learning@OLT, workshops are offered in all facets of theatre including directing, design, playwriting and technical theatre skills.

Ottawa Little Theatre celebrates its 100th Season with a play from each of its ten decades, ten historical exhibits in the foyer, and the unveiling of the Cornerstone sculpture honouring the theatre’s longtime volunteers.

Ottawa Little Theatre undergoes a Capital Renew the Building project seeing major renovations to both the outside and inside of the building with a Grand Re-opening Event on September 20, 2017.

Present Day
Ottawa Little Theatre currently produces a nine-play season full of mystery, comedy, drama and farce.