110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
It's always had a shoestring budget, but Lake Helen's Shoestring Theatre has seen great changes throughout its lifetime.
The theater hasn't always had its home in Lake Helen, but got its start in the old DeLand Naval Air Station mess hall on the DeLand Municipal Airport. The "DeLand Players," as they originally called themselves, got the group started here in the early 1950s. Soon after, they took on the name "Shoestring Theatre," as they have constantly relied on volunteers to make their seasons successful.
Acting, or even sitting in the audience, was an adventure there during the early years, as there was no air conditioning in the summer, and only a couple of radiant gas heaters were used in the winter. Rats sometimes stole the show, walking across the stage or climbing up curtains.
By the mid-1980s, the theater had managed to afford upgrades that included air conditioning, a better stage and improved seating. But the City of DeLand had plans for the airport, including tearing down the old mess hall that housed Shoestring.
The search for a new location brought up some ideological differences. One half of the theater's members wanted a bigger facility to cover more interests, while the other half wanted a smaller place to keep local amateurs involved. This split eventually led to the creation of Sands Theater Center in DeLand, and Shoestring Theatre in Lake Helen.
Shoestring Theatre's current home, at 380 S. Goodwin St., was once a school for black children, back in the days of segregation. Some Shoestring actors talk about a young girl's spirit that haunts the theater, believing she was most likely a student there.
Over the decades, renovations to the old schoolhouse building have kept the theater updated, while still preserving that intimate, community-based feel. Amateur and retired-professional actors alike mingle onstage in both classic fare and modern pieces.
Acting at a theater like Shoestring helps keep the performing arts alive and thriving, thrilling old and new audience members with every new season.
For further information and museum schedule, call (386) 228-3777.
Located at 380 South Goodwin Street, Lake Helen, Florida 32744
Did you find this story interesting? Subcribe to The DeLand-Deltona Beacon to read more stories from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!