Little Country Theatre (LCT) is the production arm of the North Dakota State University Department of Theatre Arts. The Department of Theatre Arts provides a comprehensive, rigorous, and innovative academic program consistent with the mission of NDSU. The department serves the pursuit of high-quality teaching, artistic performance, dedicated service, and professional and scholarly excellence through experiences of lasting value.
The Department of Theatre Arts is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.
Little Country Theatre was founded on February 10, 1914, by Alfred Gilmeiden Arvold as "a country life laboratory" and "a sociological experiment station which would depict the different modes of life."
The LCT was in the old chapel on the second floor of Old Main on the campus of NDSU, which at that time was known as the North Dakota Agricultural College. The attic of Old Main was developed into the Lincoln Cabin in 1923. The space was used for discussing plays, meetings for various campus and community organizations, gatherings after LCT and Lyceum performances, and storage and production preparations.
In 1968 Askanase Hall was completed as the new home of LCT. It included Askanase Auditorium, originally a 200 seat theatre that was expanded to 350 seats with a 30' wide and 20' deep stage with a 18' wide and 12' high proscenium.
In 1988 the Walsh Studio Theatre was dedicated as a flexible rehearsal space, classroom and performance space.
The origins of theatre at North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC) pre-date the founding of the Little Country Theatre (LTC) in February of 1914 . On January 18, 1907 the NDAC Dramatic Club was founded and they “produced their first play Captain Racket on June 6, 1907 at the Grand Theatre [downtown Fargo]. In the 1907 Agassiz (Volume One) yearbook there is a Program list for that play and a picture of the 8 young women and 10 young men with the ‘Director’ Professor Keene.” Edward Spencer Keene came to NDAC in the fall of 1892, with a BS degree from the University of Illinois and two years of teaching experience. He was hired to head the Mechanical Arts program.” Professor Keene, as with most of the early faculty members at NDAC, wore many hats. Not only was he involved with drama at NDAC, he organized the military training program (eventually evolved into ROTC), the Engineering Club (Lyceum of Engineers) and the first men’s social fraternity, Alpha Mu (eventually became Theta Chi fraternity). He also became Dean of the School of Mechanical Arts and served as Interim President of the College (1921). [Information excerpted/paraphrased from Don Larew’s presentation to LCT alumni at a reception at the University President’s home on December 9, 2004.]
The phenomenal growth of theatre and related entertainment at NDAC was due primarily to Alfred G. Arvold, originally hired in the fall of 1907 as am Instructor in English and Oratory. By he time of his retirement in 1953 he was Chairman and Professor of Speech, and Leader in Neighborhood Activities, which he held until his retirement in 1953. Prior to his founding of the LCT in 1914, Arvold immersed himself in theatre and theatre related activities almost upon his arrival at NDAC. In October 1907, Arvold was elected Director of the Dramatic Club, that Keene helped to found, and soon after the name was changed to the Edwin Booth Dramatic Club, the name of the dramatic club at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Arvold’s alma mater. The Edwin Booth Dramatic Club’s first production, The Professor’s Predicament premiered on February 12, 1908, at the Fargo Opera House. Probably his most ambitious, non-LCT undertaking, was in the winter of 1913, with the NDAC Student Life Train, which was manned and operated by students and left Fargo on Monday, February 10, 1913 for three days, and 30 North Dakota towns and communities promoting NDAC. On board were exhibits from all departments of the college, President and Mrs. Worst were the major chaperones, students from the Cadet Band, the Crack Squad, the College “Y” quartet, two Programs from the Edwin Booth Dramatic club, the college Orchestra, and student demonstrators. [Information excerpted/ paraphrased from Don Larew’s presentation to LCT alumni at a reception at the University President’s home on December 9, 2004.]
The Little Country Theatre, as we know it, was dedicated at North Dakota Agricultural College on February 10, 1914. Since the chapel in Old Main was not being used, Arvold decided that was the place to set a permanent theatre at NDAC. Through his efforts, the chapel was transformed into a theatre, eventually seating 350. Within ten years the theater plant had grown and occupied most of the second and third floors of Old Main. Including the theater proper, its adjuncts included the Lincoln Log Cabin, the Ibsen Room, the Green Room, the Village, the Library, the Tower Study, and the main office and makeup room.
“The aim of The Little Country Theater is to produce such plays and exercises as can be easily staged in a country school-house, the basement of a country church, the sitting room of a farm home, or the village or town hall, or any place where people assemble for social betterment. Its principal function is to stimulate an interest in good, clean drama and original entertainment among the people living in the open country and villages.” Arvold, Alfred G. (1957). Alfred.....In Every Man’s Life. Fargo: Ulsaker Printing Co., p. 25.
With the completion of Askanase Hall in 1968, the theater plant which had been in Old Main for fifty-four years relocated to a 400-seat theater, classrooms, and workrooms.
(This needs to be in reverse chronological order)
1 First Literary Society Festival (play contest) – Program - December 1911