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Fort Totten Little Theater


Fort Totten began in 1867 as a military outpost on the Northern Plains that acted as a symbol in aiding settlers on their journey across the vast prairie. Slightly less than 100 years later it became another symbol- a cultural symbol. On this date in 1963, tickets went on sale for the first production at Fort Totten Little Theater. The musical, Oklahoma, was chosen due to its western theme however it was necessary to add platforms to provide wings for the stage to accommodate the large sets required for a major musical. On rainy nights the cast had to bring all the sets on stage and work around them. The next year, the wings were covered and over the years other improvements were made on the stage, in the lighting and in the seating.

Broadway musicals have been the mainstay for productions at the Fort although in 1965 the melodrama, Under the Gaslight, written in 1867, was deemed more fitting for the fort’s centennial year. This show was complete with a hero, heroine, villain and even a daring rescue of the hero’s sidekick tied to the tracks in front of a moving train.

Although many thousands of patrons have enjoyed the forty-five years the Fort Totten Little Theater has been in operation, the longest running stock theater in the state, the real value comes through the love and respect for the arts that comes with participating in a production. To be part of the effort required to produce this yearly attraction awakens the creative minds of the young people who come every year and it also helps develop lasting friendships. It instills a lifelong appreciation for theater and the arts. This year, the production of Annie Get Your Gun is directed by Thorine Peterson, who began her association with the Little Theater playing Ado Annie in the 1963 production of Oklahoma, and Steph Keller, who first performed in the 1967 production of Annie Get Your Gun. Numerous other actors and technical personnel have graced the stage and many have gone on to professional careers in theater or music. As a cultural symbol, Fort Totten Little Theater not only brings theater to central North Dakota but it has aided so many young people and enriched their lives in furthering their appreciation of the arts.

The writer of this Datebook has a long association with the Little Theater, going back to the early days, and I’m happy to say that I was the one rescued in the nick of time from in front of that moving train by the heroine for eighteen performances without a hitch. Well actually the train did need to back up one night, but that’s another story.

By Jim Davis


The Devils Lake World June 29, 1966

The Devils Lake Journal June 26, 1963

The Devils Lake World June 24, 1970