Back Alley Theatre was built inside an historic building that was formerly a mercantile building. The outside area had 4 walls but nothing else. One of the store owners in town noticed the good acoustics and had the dream of live theater and called together a volunteer board, and it began!
The history of the space dates back to 1904 construction of the Hicks and Richardson building now owned by the Village of Grand Cane. The space was used for mercantile storage. Items sold in the store were unloaded in the “back alley” for storage. Many of the items sold in the turn-of- the-century store might include everything from nails to coffins:Anything the farmer might need from bulk flour to wagon wheels, clothing and sundries.The building originally had a roof.When the visionaries from the theater came along time had taken toll on the space, but they noticed what wonderful acoustics the area had. The group formed a board of directors and made a place for local actors to share their talents. Their patrons were faithful and shared the inconvenience of cold, heat, and rain to be able to experience live theater.Eventually, with much public support and hard work and determination from the board,heaters, fans, a sound system, a roof, and lights were acquired.
Back Alley Community Theatre is nestled in DeSoto parish about 35 miles from Shreveport. It is located in the historic Hicks and Richardson building in the middle of Grand Cane, which is a small village outside of Mansfield. From its founding in 2001, it has provided live theater and musical entertainment to DeSoto Parish and the surrounding areas.
Back Alley Theater has humble origins. However its artistic merit, its influence, its mission and the leadership of its board combine to make the theater a vital part of this rual community.
Back Alley was built from the ground up. When it was formed, it had a dirt floor and no roof. One play was done, then some seats and risers were added, then another, and the raised stage. All the profits returned to the theater by a dedicated bunch of volunteers. After 5 years of “open air theater” the legislature granted enough money to build a roof. A large concrete patio was financed by the Historic Grand Cane Association and an awning donated by a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. After obtaining its tax-free status, the theater began to receive donations from the public.
As far as artistic merit, Back Alley Theatre has some of the best talent! This is actually amazing for this size rural area which has approximately 15,000 people. BackAlley draws on larger surrounding cities also for gleaning talent. It has also invited guest performers such as the “Gilbert and Sullivan” players to perform operettas and even staged one person shows in connection with the library. In every season, both comedies and musicals are presented. The quality of these shows is measured by the fact that most shows sell out. In the last two years, dramatic, more serious, shows have been added such as THE CUROIUS SAVAGE and Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSETRAP.
Occasionally Back Alley is invited to bring a play to another town. GREATER TUNA was a taken to Jefferson Texas (since the authors Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard are from Austin, TX) and presented at the Jefferson playhouse to a sold out crowd. Often churches will want a particular show and will bring the Back Alley troupe. The musical SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN is an example of this traveling play, as it had a religious theme. Its actors came from towns as far as two hours away.
The mission of Back Alley theatre is to provide cultural enrichment by showcasing talent through live theater. Its goals include bringing culture experience to the community, physically producing plays and musicals,
communication with the community, and being good ambassadors for the Village of Grand Cane.
Back Alley has achieved all it goals by production of musicals and plays for 15 years. Some from the rural areas would never have the opportunity to travel to a bigger city to experience live theater.
The leadership of the board and staff is competent, but always looking for ways to develop. Attending SRAC (Shreveport Regional Arts Council) Arts Administrators Meeting is a way for the board members to network and become aware of their place in the larger arts community.
The board, usually about 20 members, has also had goal-setting meetings where they list what they should like to achieve in the community: both short term and long term goals. These are re-evaluated periodically to see if the goals are met. Since Shreveport is the nearest large city.
The SRAC community Development Director comes to visit the board and helps lay plans for participating in the larger themes of the arts community.
All of the 20 board members work hard to keep the theater live and continuing.
Back Alley Theatre, although with modest origins, serves as a great organization recognized for its artistic merit, its influence, its mission and goals, and its board leadership.
By providing live theater to a rural community, many people experience cultural experiences that they might not otherwise experience.
The plays and musicals that are produced at Back Alley make use of various artistic abilities in the community and give people an outlet for their talent.
The community support that is generated by Back Alley Theatre is a vital component for the growth of the area. By organizing and producing the shows every year, the theater is a glue that holds the different artistic venues together. And by participating in SRAC and its regional activities, BackAlley becomes a part of the larger community.
Local theater plays a vital role in the larger community and Back Alley Theatre has done this successfully for fifteen years, and is looking to continue for many years to come.