ELT started as a Play Reading Group in the first week of February 1958 at the home of Mrs Joan Sellars, Main Road, Research. The Group decided to elect a Committee after meeting for two weeks.
Elected members were: President Joan Sellars, Vice-president Betty Techritz, Secretary Olive Holland, Treasurer Jon Koker, Committee Members Sherry O’Neal, Esme Boyd-Barker, Pam Reece, Bernice Montague.
Calling themselves The Research Players, they joined the Victorian Drama League in early February 1958. At the end of March however, disagreement within the Group relating to the issue of public performance, resulted in a new election on 1 April. The new Committee was: President Betty Techritz, Vice-President Olive Holland, Secretary/Treasurer Belle Rothwell, Committee Members Esme Boyd-Barker, Bernice Montague, Sherry O’Neill.
The decision was made to commence performing to the public. Play readings continued every Monday at Eltham Youth Club Committee room. At the Annual General meeting, the Group changed its name to Diamond Valley Drama Group. After presenting 3 one-act plays at Eltham RSL for private viewing by Mrs Christian, a representative of the VDL, the Group was encouraged by her to commence public performances. And so we began!
In 1987 the old Research Hall was demolished and during that year the new Eltham Performing Arts Centre was built. Cheryl Fenn (Ballantine) directed the very first play in the new theatre in 1988. The committee then was; Leigh Fiddes (President), George Barker (Vice President), Carole Driscoll (Secretary), Harry Rothwell (Treasurer), Judy Robinson (Ticket Secretary), Wayne Humphries, Anna Brinkotter, Gayle Moore-Poor, Ruth Hoskin, Jenny Hamilton, Maree Hingston.
We would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of a handful of Directors, most notably the late Belle Rothwell who directed approximately 34 productions between 1961 and 1984, including 15 Music Halls. This extraordinary output gives an indication of Belle’s energy and dedication to our Group.
Recognition should go to Carole Driscoll who directed l7 productions between 1979 and 1993. Thirteen of these were Youth Productions, which demonstrates Carole‘s commitment to developing the skills of children and young members of Eltham Little Theatre.
We would also like to mention George Barker (11 productions between 1960 and 1995, including six Music Halls), and Cheryl Ballantine (formerly Fenn) who, since 1985, has directed approximately 22 productions. Recognition should also go to Gayle Poor who has directed 14 productions since 1997, ten of them Youth Productions with Lois Fleming since “Hit the Stage” in 2001.
And of course how could we not mention our diligent, hard-working, ever-present Costume Creator Bonnie Rothwell, who has created costumes for many many years at ELT. Also a warm welcome and thank you to the outstanding efforts in costume design and creation for the Youth Productions, Virginia Donnelly and her team of hard working Mums. Her costumes be-dazzled patrons for 7 years. Virginia, sadly for us, has moved to New Zealand and will be well missed.
Sadly, our President George Barker, passed away in 2005, a year after his wife Esme. Ian Forsyth held the fort until Ron Pearce became Eltham Little Theatre’s President in 2006, followed by Carol Owen in 2011. Margaret Lumb stepped down from her prestigious role of presenting the Lumb Logie for our Music Hall in 2006, with Mike Croft taking over this role in 2007. The Champagne Charlie Award for Best Male Actor and the Belle of Music Hall for Best Actress in a Music Hall.