The Gaslight Theatre has been around long enough now to have a history! It all started back in 1977 when a young 24 year old U of A student named Tony Terry Jr. grabbed a few great friends from the drama department and headed to Alaska! Skagway, Alaska to be exact. They founded the “Mighty Moose Melodrama Theatre” and the one and only production was called “Gold Fever! or Danger at Bonanza Creek!” This show was written by Howard Allen, designed and painted by Tom Benson, and produced by Tony Terry. After a long, cold, BUT FUN summer, the troupe said “The heck with this! Let’s head back to the desert!” Shortly after their return to Tucson and with the help of Tony’s brother Tom, they opened The Gaslight Theatre in an old red barn at Trail Dust Town on Tanque Verde Road.
In spite of a slow beginning, they began to outgrow the old barn (100 seats, 106 if they sat people on the bar!). So, they packed up once again and moved down the road to their third location at the corner of Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde Road. Here, with the help of many friends in 1980, they designed and built a new theatre with 223 seats. What a change! After ten great years at that location they were fortunate enough to move, and this time actually purchase a new home: the old Jerry Lewis Theatre at the corner of Broadway and Kolb. Once again, doing most of the work themselves, they renovated the theatre and also built “Little Anthony’s Diner” from the ground up.
Many of their artistic staff have been with them since the early years. Tom Benson, resident scenic designer and a founding partner, began in Skagway. The late Mr. Danny Griffith, “The King of the Melodrama Pianists,” joined during their second show “The Sally Cathleen Claim or All That Glitters Is Not Gold!” in 1978. David Darland, the youngest stage technician in their history, started in 1977. Several favorite cast regulars have also been with them since the early years; Peter Van Slyke joined in 1978 for their second season, Joe Cooper and Armen Dirtadian joined in 1983.
Through the years the Gaslight Theatre has been fortunate to have the talents of Tim Gilbert- “The Guy With The Eyes,” Glenda Young, Donna Davis, Nancy La Viola and many others. Tim Gilbert was the first Gaslight actor to retire in January 2001. As they bypass over 31 years of entertaining Tucson families, they have become a mainstay in local entertainment and are highly recommended by many local Tucsonans.
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