Community Impact

1966 Newspaper article promoting the JJP performance of Damn Yankees.

The History of Community Theatre

The history of community theater also known as the “little theater movement” took off within the United States during the 1900s. A shift from traditional Opera houses in Europe produced smaller playhouses led by non-professional actors and amateur lovers of the arts. The Great Depression and WWI would inevitably slow down the ability for little theaters to run smoothly, leading many to shut down. However, in the years following WWII there was a new boom in American theater activity and productions. Similarly to the creation of Joe Jefferson Players, communities around the U.S. wished to re-establish small scale theaters after the war. In 1962, the Stanford Research Institute estimated that roughly 18,000 community theater groups were in operation.

District Context

Map of Midtown Historic District

According to the Midtown Historic district documentation provided by the Alabama Historic Commission, the district is residential in its character, the area came within the city limits of Mobile largely between 1915 and 1931 with roughly 1500 structures considered to be contributing buildings. The Joe Jefferson Players building resides within the Midtown Historic District on South Carlen Street. The setting of Joe Jefferson Players is urban in its character.

The Joe Jefferson Players building currently resides within the Midtown Historic District. In the year 2000 when the district was applying to become a recognized district, JJP was classified as a noncontributing building due to not meeting the age requirements. However, now the building meets the requirement critera for being 40 years of age or older. 

Commmunity Impact

  • Notably in 1949, early on in the creation of Joe Jefferson Players, they set a new precedent for the time period by welcoming a woman director named Yvonne Howell to their stage. Women during the postwar era in America were often scrutinized for participating in work that revolved outside of the home, yet a small theater company in Mobile embraced a woman to lead a production.
  • Charitable performances have been offered since the beginning of the theater with special mention from the National Council of Jewish women in 1951. 
  • The Joe Jefferson Players have made efforts to highlight the inclusion of minority groups with their lineup of productions. Two notable productions within Joe Jefferson Players centered around minority stories would be Ragtime and Gee’s Bend.
  • Annually since 2018, fundraiser performances have been held for the organization Prism United which is a nonprofit dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth. 
1951 letter from The National Council of Jewish Women addressing JJP.

Listen to a director from JJP below:

Dedicated to Southern Heritage Conservation