Showtimers was formed in the summer of 1950, by a group of people who wanted to present a summer season of amateur productions. The originators of the group were Leroy MacFarland, Betty Garretson, Cindy Dunn, Sam Good, Dave & Kathy Thornton. A meeting was held, to which Roanoke Valley citizens interested in theatre were invited. The records are lost, but 30 to 50 people attended that first meeting. As plans progressed, the name was chosen, it was decided to present a season of six plays in the summer of 1951 and that everyone who wanted to be a part of the group would contribute $10.
With a great deal of work done during the next months, the premiere performance of Showtimers was on July 5, 1951 with the production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The early seasons consisted of six plays performed within six weeks. The first seasons were presented at the Lab Theatre, on the campus of Roanoke College. Showtimers was tremendously grateful to Roanoke College for their support of this new venture and the use of their facilities.
In 1961, Showtimers purchased their own building, the former Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, on what is now McVitty Road in Roanoke City. The historic church was first constructed in 1908, from what we have learned. With little money, the group spent several years remodeling the church into a theatre. Eventually, it was used for rehearsals, with performances still presented at the Lab Theatre.
The first musical presented by Showtimers was in 1963, when The Boyfriend was produced. A musical spoof that was later revived in 1990 for Showtimers’ Gala 40th Anniversary season.
The first time Showtimers had a fund drive was in 1971, when work to its current location was needed and the Lab Theatre was no longer made available. Remodeling was completed and Spofford became the first show presented in the new theatre that same year.
With further changes, improvements and renovations, the building now has handicapped accessibility, a covered front porch for the patrons, a covered ‘stage door’ for the actors and more. The theatre currently seats 120.
Over the years, Showtimers has produced over 300 different shows, from standard, classic theatre pieces to the modern and avant-garde; from comedies designed solely to entertain to serious ‘think pieces’ on social issues; from small, intimate musicals to large shows made famous on Broadway. Currently, Showtimers presents five shows per year, but now they are spread out from February until November or December.