The Boise Little Theater is the oldest theater in Boise and a unique landmark that many will recognize. It was built in 1957 after burning down at Gowen Field; the theater is a wealth of stories and legends.
The Boise Little Theater is one of Boise’s most distinguished community theaters and is also one of the oldest community theaters in the country. However in 1957 there was a tragic fire that burned down the theater and killed two members of the theater. The current Fort Boise location is the second Boise Little Theater. The current theater was designed by Arthur L. Troutner who was working for Trus-dek Corporation at the time. He designed the BLT using a unique design of curved laminated beams in the ceiling which would later become a Troutner hallmark and was one of the first examples of this type of construction. Mr. Troutner went on to form Truss Joist Corporation and used the BLT as an example for clients of the beams that his company was constructing.
The Boise Little Theater is a modern architectural combination of an octagonal floor plan and a “flying saucer”esque dome top. It’s made of brick and rough wood paneling signature of the architect. This paneling is found throughout the undersides of the dome top as well as inside the theater through the ceiling panels. The front lobby is opened up by large square windows and three sets of double doors. The repetition of red posts lead up to the overhang of the outside dome and, looking up, one can see the wood paneling as well as wooden post supports found in craftsman style, though this is really the only identifiable element of the theater. It truly has a style all its own.
The theater has also gone through four remodeling expansions. Except for the front portion of the lobby, the entire flat roof is added on. The first expanded the green room, dressing room, shop and wardrobe; the second was the rehearsal hall; the third was the lobby expansion, new restrooms and box office; and lastly the fourth was the extended wardrobe, and the furniture and prop room. These expansions were part of the original plan designed by Mr. Troutner. Paul Moehlmann and a number of volunteers donated the brickwork for the original structure.
People who work at the The Little Theatre believe it is rumored to be haunted by three ghosts, one female and two male: one in the front lobby, one stage left and one(the eeriest one that most refuse to talk about “within ear shot”) in the wardrobe department. For the wardrobe ghost a light is always left on and a book laid out to appease him and keep him from messing with the actors too terribly. The one living stage left likes to mess with the lights and the woman in the lobby…well…she, for all the stories told, seems to just keep to herself.
Two of the ghosts supposedly died when the first theatre burned down in 1957. The following stories are quoted from Clay Lee, a frequent performer and teacher at the Little Theater. A lady was working in the ticket booth with the door closed and her small dog began growling at the door and her ears went back and hair stood up. The lady working inside opened the door and nobody was there but the dog was still growling and staring into thin air. The lady then grabbed her belongings and dog and left in a hurry. One of the male ghosts hangs out in the wings and green room he is the second victim of the fire and he is the playful one that hides props and turns off the lights.
I have a personal experience with him–After a drama camp performance at BLT I was locking up. I started at one end of the round building and walked through turning off lights, by the time I made it back to where I had started the lights I had turned down were back on! I tried to make the round again and the lights again came on – I finally gave in to the rumors of ghosts and asked politely as if I were talking to someone next to me if I could please go home and then tried the lights one last time and to my creepy surprise the lights were still off.
The 3rd ghost is rumored to have also died in the fire and he was supposedly the costumer in the old theater and died trying to throughout the costumes before they burned. In life he would have been referred to as the ‘costume Nazi’. As a ghost he is fine if left alone, he doesn’t tolerate people in the costume room for very long and there is light left on next to a table and a book so that he can keep himself occupied reading. The stories around him are all similar – when in the costume room people standing just an isle apart cannot hear each other when he gets feisty! There is one person who can give testament to being trapped in the room and screaming for help through the door into a theater filled with cast and crew and not one person could hear him!?
Regardless of the spirits, the BLT is an excellent example of the uniqueness of Troutner’s work in the Treasure Valley and one of the his only commercial designed buildings.
(source: Boise Little Theater)