The Los Angeles City College Theatre Department has been in existence so long that grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the first graduating classes are able to attend the school. To borrow a line from Thornton Wilder, "How did this all begin?"
Los Angeles City College started in 1929, using the buildings and site formerly used by UCLA on North Vermont. Prior to 1929, the first College President, William H. Snyder, had contacted Harold Turney, a Universal talent scout, who had a training theatre at the Studio called the Playcrafters. By the time LACC occupied the campus, Snyder, Turney, and the studio heads had agreed to move the Playcrafters operation to the campus, and use the huge inherited auditorium for its activities.
The first production of the Theatre Department used the spot lights, scenery, etc. from the studio, and the first students were enrolled. During the first production, "The Queen's Husband", Mr. Turney became ill, and Jerry Blunt, a graduate theatre student at UCLA, and a member of the Playcrafters group since 1927, came back to the campus to help direct. After his graduation, Mr. Blunt was hired by LACC. The two men, Turney and Blunt established the basic philosophy of the department, that the productions themselves form the climax of the student's course, and that the student appear before the public as many times as possible each semester. To that end an extensive system of classes, embracing all phases of the dramatic field, was organized as a part of the regular college curriculum.
In 1931 a Little Theatre was created in what had once been a women's gymnasium. During the 1930's and until World War II the department operated two theatres, the Little Theatre and the larger auditorium. Following the war, a third theatre was added which featured central staging. This welcome addition was adapted from a bungalow; a war emergency building. Plays were alternately scheduled, according to the adaptability and needs, into each of these three theatres, giving the student opportunity for a variety of stage experience.
In 1959 the large auditorium was razed to make way for the new Administration Building and in 1963 the Little Theatre was razed to make way for the new Theatre Building. The demise of the Little Theatre was not without emotion as it had been the "home" of the Theatre Department for over 32 years and many a student had enshrined it in memory. With the opening of the new Theatre Building, the Theatre Department had, at last, a well designed proscenium theatre to accommodate the activities of the Department.
Prior to the leveling of the Little Theatre, the Engineering Annex was pressed into service as an "Interim Theater." Fortunately, for three and a half years, it proved to be a most workable playhouse, and the training of students never slackened.
During World War Il, the girls in the Department organized a variety show that they named the "GI Girls." Each weekend they were bussed to Bases in Southern California to perform. They were so popular, and had so many requests that a second troupe was formed, called "GI Girls II." The soldiers who drove the busses were always amused, because their orders were to "pick up the girls" at the intersection of Lily Crest and Heliotrope.
(Historical Notes compiled by Professor Emeritus Norman Mennes)