Part One of the discussion at the Steele County Historical Society's 50th anniversary of the Little Theatre of Owatonna during a roundtable on Thursday, Jan. 14. Jerry Ganfield, who is a part of LTO and a Steele County Historical Society board member, facilitated the program. He also told some stories, as they all did.

The panel included Jeffrey Jackson, Sharon Stark, Mark Kuklok, Tim Van Gelder and Gaylene Streckleberg.

Stark began with the history that started with a community theater in the 1940s, which disband because of the war. Eventually elementary student fundraisers changed from carnivals to plays.

After talking with other theaters in the area, Little Theatre of Owatonna was incorporated in June 1966. The first show was Three Men on a Horse in October and directed by Vita Alexander. The winter show was Never too Late, with a spring musical, Guys and Dolls.

The state school was closed and the students placed in Owatonna schools. Little Theatre rented from the state and a community college moved in. The city took over in the 1970s and LTO now rents from them.

Stark explains that in January, letters are sent out to those involved in the theater and the board and committee pick a season that would include a drama, mystery, comedy, children's and a musical. Next year, a second matinee will be added by dropping the Thursday night performance of the second week.

Nonmusicals can cost up to $12,000 and musicals up to $18,000. That pays for the rights and royalties, which are paid in advance.

LTO has had improvements thanks to grants from the Owatonna Foundation, Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and donations from local businesses plus three fundraisers. The improvements include a green room for actors, a workshop, two dressing rooms, plus updating the seating and improving the air conditioners twice.

Little Theatre of Owatonna roundtable. Jefferey Jackson, Sharon Stark, Mark Kuklok, Tim Van Gelder and Gaylene Streckleberg. Lisa Marie/Townsquare Media.