Spotlight Theatre, A Brief History
Because Mrs. Nellie Saylor, a Westgate Hills housewife, became bored with suburban domesticity, she called a few neighbors and close friends to her home on January 20,1941 to initiate the idea of a Little Theater Group in the community. The ten men and women present that night were so in favor of the idea they immediately formed the Westgate Players, and elected Mrs. Saylor as the first President.
The Westgate Players became a reality on April 1,1941 when the curtain rose on the first show A Full House presented in the Llanerch Fire Hall.
The fire hall was adopted as the Players regular meeting place. In 1948, with a membership of 74, new ideas came to the group. A work shop for the benefit of all was instituted, and selling benefit tickets was put into action. As time moved along, Llanerch Fire Hafl proved too small for the constantly growing audience; and, for the 1952-53 season, Westgate Players moved to the Lynnwood School.
By 1961 an extensive mailing list was developed of earnest supporters of Little Theater and, active membership had risen to 85. However, due to such entertaining shows as Born Yesterday, Solid Gold Cadillac, Seven Year Itch, Once More with Feeling, even Lynnwood School’s capacity was strained.
Thus, at the opening of the 1963-64 season, with the majority of members being from Marple Township, the group arrived at St. Anastasia’s Church Hall with the comedy Send Me No Flowers. Unfortunately, as the curtain closed with the last show of the season, so did the Players because the facilities were needed by the parish.
Because the feeling persisted that Little Theater brings a definite advantage to a community, an appeal was made to the Marple Township Park and Recreation Board to give the Players a home and thereby give them a chance to bring entertainment and culture into the township.
When the 1964-65 season opened, the group became the Marple-Westgate Players and found themselves under the sponsorship of the Marple Township Park and Recreation Board with a new home at the Paxon Hollow School in Broomall.
Eventually the sponsorship was transferred to the Marple Newtown Leisure Services, and the name became the Maple Newtown Players (MNP). In 1982, MNP moved to the Gaunlett Community Center.
MNP began the Marple Newtown Players Children’s Theater in 1987 with its first production Alice in Wonderland.
In 2002 the sponsorship of Marple Newtown Leisure Service ended, and the Marple Newtown Players became incorporated as a not for profit corporation.
A Children’s Summer Theater Camp was started in 2004 for children to develop an appreciation of theater and to gain self confidence and improve communication skills through theater arts.
In 2010, considerable renovations planned for the Gauntlett Center meant that the group needed to change its home again, and Swarthmore United Methodist Church graciously opened its doors to the group you now know as Spotlight Theatre. Though it has no affiliation to the church, Spotlight Theatre is grateful for the hospitality and support of SUMC.
The board and performers at Spotlight Theatre look forward to proudly continue the tradition of bringing quality “live” theatre at affordable prices to the community.