The Footlight Club – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

The Footlight Club

America’s oldest community theater, this Boston club has been in operation since 1877. 

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The Footlight Club has been entertaining the Boston area since 1877. According to the American Association of Community Theatre, it is the oldest, continuously producing community theater in the United States.

The idea for this theater started in December 1876, at the home of 19-year-old Caroline Morse. During a local meeting she “proposed starting a theater club of serious intent.” At a meeting the following January, the committee considered organizing a dramatic club. There were 25 founding members who agreed to found a club “to promote friendly and social intercourse, and to furnish pleasant and useful entertainment by the aid of the drama.” 

Two of the founders were the Wheelwright brothers who had helped found the Harvard Lampoon several years earlier. Almost half of the founding members came from just four families, and they included architects, lawyers, bacteriologists, and publishers. The first major challenge the club faced occurred in its very first year, when the Board of Directors invited an out-of-town lady to be a member, over local men and women. Her application was ultimately rejected, bringing great embarrassment to the Board.

The theater held its first six performances in 1877 at the small German Club, but due to its immediate popularity, moved to Eliot Hall in October of 1878. Eliot Hall was built in 1832 and purchased by the Footlight Club in 1889 to prevent its demolition. Each season the theatre produces five wide ranging theatrical productions for the community.

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