Everyone at Wells are passionate about performing arts, from plays to musical theatre. For nearly 120 years we have been entertaining audiences with our award-winning plays, musicals and pantomimes.
Wells Little Theatre is owned and administered by Wells Operatic Society Limited, a registered charity, licensed by Somerset District Council.
The Society was formed in 1901 with its first performance in 1902 and was then referred to as Wells Operatic Society. In those days, the Society performed only one show a year, mainly Operas. Not having a theatre of its own, the Town Hall was used for its productions. Shows continued each Easter until 1914, after which WW1 put an end to them. At the same time, the Society became affiliated to NODA (National Operatic and Drama Association). Shows carried on until 1938, when once again war in Europe meant the Society ceased productions. The Society was restarted in 1950 and productions were moved to the Regal Cinema, where it continued to present an annual Opera or Operetta. In 1978 the Society became a Limited Company and a registered charity. Now, The Society typically produces four amateur productions a year, along with other theatrical events by touring companies.
In 1969 The Society was offered a lease option on the current building from Mendip District Council. Over time, The Society was able to buy the building from Mendip and owned it fully, by 1979. It became our home and is known to all as 'The Little Theatre'. Previous to that, the building was best known as the boy's building of Wells Blue Grammar School. When the Society purchased the building, considerable work was required to change the interior from rows of classrooms to space for the stage, auditorium, dressing rooms and a licensed bar. Later, the rear part of the auditorium was raised so that people in the rear seats had a better view of the stage. Over the years, an orchestra pit was created, the stage right wings were added, and the auditorium was given a total refurbishment.
The theatre is largely dependent on voluntary contributions. Except for a few specialised trades, members of the society carry out almost all maintenance and refurbishment work in their spare time. We are lucky to have such skilled and talented members who are prepared to donate their valuable time. Running our building, even before considering the cost of staging shows, costs in the region of £300 per week. This covers electricity, heating, telephone, and all the essential repairs and maintenance. Work beyond the scope of our members is, wherever possible, given to local traders. The theatre is also hired out for dance training and meetings for various organisations.