HISTORY: Founded in 1930, the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players (CLTP) is one of the oldest community theatre groups in the United States, as well as one of the oldest continuously operating organizations in Cheyenne. The CLTP achieved 501(c)(3) status in 1940.
In the late 1920s, touring groups that had once regularly performed live in communities throughout the United States slipped into obscurity, their popularity usurped by an increasing interest in broadcast radio and in the cinema. Audiences benefited because radio receivers could be purchased relatively reasonably for home use, and admission to “talking pictures” was less expensive than to live performances. Theatres also profited as renting films cost less than paying for booking fees, orchestras, stagehands and other expenses connected with “live” entertainment.
Largely in response to the demise of the touring troupe in the fall of 1929, Mr. William F. DeVere and Mr. Barrie O’Daniels met with the officers of the Cheyenne Women’s Club to discuss forming a little theatre. Mrs. R.J. (Elizabeth) Hofmann, club president, and Mrs. J. D. (Agnes) O’Mahoney, club vice-president, took the idea to their members, who voted to sponsor the project. Soon representatives of twelve local service clubs were involved in the project. They elected Agnes O’Mahoney president of a twelve member board of directors.
The new little theatre presented three one-act plays on May 7, 1930 in the Wyoming Consistory Auditorium. Frederic Hutchison “Bunk” Porter designed the sets. Porter, a well-known Cheyenne architect, was to become the creative force behind the group’s sets for many years. Known for their carefully crafted detail, his sets awed both actors and audiences. The organization performed all of its shows in the Wyoming Consistory Auditorium until 1953, when productions moved to the stage of the Lincoln Theatre.
A number of the individuals who helped found the organization served it for many years: William F. DeVere, who directed the group’s first three one-act plays, was a board member for 22 years. Mrs. R. J. Hofmann, active in its creation, was president between 1949 and 1952, then sat on theatre’s advisory board, a three-member body created in the early 1950s. Set designer “Bunk” Porter also joined the advisory board after serving on the board of directors for 22 years. Barrie O’Daniels continued to direct, act, and lend his experience to the group for over 25 years.
MARY GODFREY PLAYHOUSE: In 1958, on land owned by the City of Cheyenne, the CLTP completed construction of a studio designed by Frederic Porter. The studio included a scene shop, rehearsal stage, a workshop, storage areas for scenery, properties, and costumes, and the Virginia L. Warkley green room. The CLTP purchased the property, which is on East Pershing Blvd., in 1965. By 1965, the building had been expanded to include a theatre, a dressing room, work areas, and a lobby. Today, the Mary Godfrey seats approximately 247 people. It is located at the corner of East Pershing Blvd. and Windmill Road.
HISTORIC ATLAS THEATRE: Constructed in 1888 as offices and a tearoom, the Atlas Building was converted to a theatre in 1908. Master Wyoming architect, William Dubois, drew up the plans for the conversion, which called for seating of 550, a stage sufficient for the traveling companies of the time, a soda fountain, a penny arcade, and a confectionery parlor.
The upper floors, once used as offices, were transformed into a rooming house. After its conversion, the Atlas showcased Vaudeville acts, finally closing in December, 1929. It soon reopened as the Strand, a movie theatre that entertained audiences until 1955. The Pink Pony Nightclub, which operated in the lobby area, quickly replaced the Strand during the early 1960s. The Atlas’ auditorium saw little use until 1966 when the CLTP leased the building – and changed its name back to the Atlas -- for its Old Fashioned Melodrama productions. By 1971, the CLTP purchased the building. Today, the Historic Atlas, which seats about 250 people, is used both for the Old Fashioned Melodrama and for CLTP productions. Other groups, as well as private individuals, frequently rent the space for weddings, meetings and performances. The historic theatre is in need of major renovation, and this project is one of the CLTP’s major priorities. The Historic Atlas Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Cheyenne at 211 W. Lincolnway.