In the late 1920s, a private elocution teacher named Dean Dreifus fulfilled a dream by establishing a local performing group called the Altoona Theatre Guild. A few years later, the troupe changed its name to Altoona Little Theatre and received a growth spurt when some performers from The Chicago Stock Company (which ran out of funds and folded during a summer engagement at Lakemont Park) remained in the area for awhile. In November 1948, after additional growth, those involved with the troupe decided it was time to formalize its existence and incorporated as Altoona Community Theatre.
ACT mounted its productions in a variety of venues around town: the Penn Alto Hotel, Roosevelt Junior High School, the undergraduate center at Ivyside Campus, Altoona High School and St. Lukeâ€™s Church, to name a few. In 1965, when it was announced the Mishler Theatre was to be razed, ACT joined forces with the Blair County Arts Foundation to buy the historic theatre and begin renovation. ACTâ€™s production of The Sound of Music marked the gala reopening of the Mishler in March 1969 and today, ACT remains the primary tenant of the theatre, still owned and operated by BCAF.
In 1983, ACT realized the necessity of having a home away from the Mishler. Through the generous cooperation of Mr. & Mrs. Irving & Joan Seltzer and Mr. & Mrs. Sam & Rose Port, ACT purchased the former downtown Elks Lodge around the corner from the theatre to convert to its operational head-quarters. The facility houses an administrative office, rehearsal hall, meeting room, set construction shop, wardrobe workroom and costume storage area. ACT is currently undertaking major plumbing improvements to restore water to the upper floors of the building and renovate the first-floor bathrooms to make them handicapped accessible.
ACT made a major commitment to its development in July 1987 by establishing a full-time position to oversee its administrative operation. Since then, the troupe has grown considerably â€¦ from a budget of $40,000 to $180,000 and from a subscription base of 800 to 1,300. Even with such growth, however, all of the work for ACT shows is still done by volunteers. --snip--