During the deep depression of 1933, a group of volunteers in York, PA decided to form a community theatre, or “Little Theatre.” This very popular nation-wide movement led to the creation of York Little Theatre.

For 20 years productions were performed throughout the community. Finally, in 1953, a movie house was purchased and transformed into a permanent home for this local treasure.

The 1950s also brought York Little Theatre the legendary Artistic Director Elbert (Bert) Smith. The next 30 years were known as the Golden Era, with Bert’s creative talents and tireless efforts resulting in decades of high quality productions.

During this era, one young boy watched his mother perform on the York Little Theatre stage. She was beautiful and graceful, and he loved seeing her portray different roles. She had previously performed on Broadway and in national tours.  Now she shared her talent with her local friends and audiences.

Louise Ludwig was a charming and elegant woman. Her son, Ken, came to love the theatrical world as she did. Her shows inspired him, as he watched people working together to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The pure joy and unity of everyone involved left a lasting impression on him.

A performance of Postmortem at The Belmont Theatre in 2016.

Because of this, Ken knew he wanted to make this his life’s profession.  He made a clear choice to pursue a career in theatre. Little did anyone know at that time that one day he would create shows that would be acclaimed worldwide!

How incredible for the York Community that this local man became one of the most popular playwrights on Broadway.

Now, when Ken returns to visit York, he is treated as the true celebrity that he is. His shows are proudly produced locally by community theatres and high schools.

In 2011, Ken visited York Little Theatre during a production of Leading Ladies. Festivities surrounded the show, and Ken spoke to the audience as well.  The cast, crew and patrons were thrilled to meet him. They loved learning how he had created the production they had just seen.

Ken’s visit initiated an effort to save York Little Theatre. Difficult economic times and internal instability had taken a toll on this local organization. The theatre was facing closure.

Fortunately, the York community stepped up to continue the tradition of local theatre. Under new leadership and direction, York Little Theatre turned into a thriving regional theatre, drawing actors and audiences from multiple counties.

Last year, the name of the theatre was changed. It is now The Belmont Theatre. The mission remains the same, however, as this theatre continues to offer exceptional live performances and innovative educational opportunities.

The Belmont Theatre presented Postmortem as part of the 2016 season. Once again, patrons loved a Ken Ludwig show!

Ken is a role model for students and for everyone. He pursued a dream and became successful beyond expectations.  What a wonderful example for people of all ages.

Yorkers are honored to say that this young man from their community went on to truly change the world with theatre that will be performed for generations!

This article is part of our 2017 Samuel French Awards Series, honoring Ken Ludwig, Dominique Morisseau and Chris Miller & Nathan Tysen. To learn more about the Awards, click here.

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