Despite Pandemic, 94-Year-Old Amarillo Little Theatre Didn’t Miss A Beat

The sounds of Texas.

By Laura Rice & Caroline CovingtonJune 11, 2021 1:30 pm,

When the pandemic finally hit the Texas Panhandle last spring, the Amarillo Little Theatre was two weeks from opening night for a stage production of “Anne of Green Gables.” Academy Director Jason Crespin says he and his colleagues had to quickly figure out how to keep operations going at one of the oldest continually running theaters in the United States. Crespin, along with Managing Artistic Director Allen Shankles, decided what could be done safely was to bring in performers, require them to wear face masks and check their temperatures, then film the production like a movie with a small live audience.

ALT also brought dance classes to its academy students during the pandemic, through streaming services like Facebook Live.

When the theater eventually reopened for in-person performances, Shankles says staff was “unapologetic” about its safety protocols.

Both are now looking ahead to the theater’s 94th season, and Crespin expects it to be the “biggest and brightest” yet.

“We thought we would maybe be off for, you know, two or three more weeks, and then it turned to two or three more months.” – Jason Crespin


"Rock of Ages" at Amarillo Little Theatre.

“We began trying to come up with alternate ways to keep our our organization thriving and moving forward, and so we came up with these ideas for digital performances.” – Allen Shankles
“We brought in actors, you know, with with a limited number of people in our theater, filmed them and an edited, and basically were able to produce that show almost like a movie.” – Jason Crespin


“And people really seemed to love that, and so it kept our name out there and kept our enthusiasm for our work high in the community.”– Allen Shankles


"Little Women" at Amarillo Little Theatre.

“We’re creative people. So sitting, sitting and just not doing anything is hard for us to do.” – Jason Crespin
“I don’t care who you are, how much money you give to the theater, how many lead roles you played at the theater; you’re going to follow our rules when you come in our building. … Rehearsing a musical with masks on is one of the most trying things you could ever imagine. But it’s one of the ways we’ve kept everybody healthy.” – Allen Shenkles
“We’ve survived so many things. This is definitely the biggest thing that we’ve had to overcome. But we’re proud that we have overcome.” – Jason Crespin

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