Dylan Skye Aycock and John Connor Coulston contributed to this report
A mile away from campus, tucked behind local businesses and busy intersections, is Murfreesboro Little Theatre, a non-profit “playhouse” that dates back more than 100 years. The cabin, adorned with a cherry red door and outlined with orange trim, once occupied a 1960s theatre, a local community center and is now home to one of Murfreesboro’s most intimate entertainment outlets.
“When The Center for The Arts was built downtown, it was originally supposed to be a home for the Murfreesboro Little Theatre,” said MLT President Andrew Ford, while leaning against a black counter revealing a stack of “Hamlet” flyers, “but the Little Theatre moved on.”
Ford is a physician outside of his responsibilities with the theatre, but as current president he also controls several aspects of production prior to the show’s opening day.
“I’m also heavily involved in the technical side of things,” he said, motioning his hand toward the stage behind him. “I try to keep more hands-on on that side.”
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a timeless and tragic story, was presented at the Theatre last fall and is one of several performances showcased at MLT. The theatre’s comprehensive background of popular musicals and plays like The Little Mermaid, Sweet Charity and Macbeth, puts the venue at the forefront of theatres of its kind as a place that offers variety to its guests.
“We will be the first theatre in the area to do Avenue Q,” Ford said about the coming of age story. [It] will be coming [this] spring, and a lot of people are excited about that.”
With its large selection of productions each season, it’s hard to believe that the theatre operates in the small space structured to hold 50 guests, but the size also allows a unique and intimate setting for the audience.
“You can generate an emotional impact with your audience [that] you can’t get in a larger space,” said Ford. “It’s a black box theatre, [so] we can be all on one side or any side. We can be in a round or we can be on two or three sides. Whatever we need for the performance.”
Before actors take their positions on stage, lines are read and props are set in an orderly fashion alongside a white table backstage. Ford closes the black curtain to initiate that the program is about to start. Only about 40 chairs occupy the pitch black room supported by a dim light facing the stage floor. Two plush orange chairs and black boxes fill the majority of the space surrounding the stage and crowd members are within 5-feet from the actors.
“Auditions to opening night take two months to digest the lyrics,” Ford said. “You can’t fake Shakespeare.”
Overall, it’s the learning experience combined with a sense of family at the theatre that he considers to be most rewarding.
“Its intellectual stimulation, but it’s the friendships that keep you here,” he said.
For now, MLT conducts their shows at the cabin, but Ford says the quality “gets stronger and stronger,” and he hopes to one day become a regional force.