1. Very Little Theatre 2350 Hilyard St. 541-344-7751. TheVLT.com.
2. The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts (The Shedd) 868 High Street. 541-434-7000. TheShedd.org.
3. Oregon Contemporary Theatre 194 W. Broadway. 541-465-1506. OCTheatre.org.
This is one tough category to win. In recent years Eugene has been enjoying a nearly unbelievable renaissance in live theater, with exceptional work regularly appearing on half a dozen stages in and around town. You can go see a great show just about any weekend, from musicals and comedies to serious high drama, and not be disappointed. While theaters around the country are failing in this post-Covid era, Eugene theaters are flourishing.
But we’re not surprised that EW readers named Very Little Theatre as the Best Local Theater Company. We’ll start with experience. VLT, as it’s known, may be the oldest continuously operating community theater in the entire U.S., having been founded in 1929. Second, its shows are mounted in a soulful old wooden performance hall built in 1950 and gorgeously remodeled in the past couple years to improve sight lines and increase backstage space.
Finally, there’s an indefinable friendliness about VLT and its productions. Good community theater is intrinsically lovable. It’s friends performing for friends — and performing, as well, for an inclusive greater community. VLT began hosting Minority Voices Theatre in 2017, well before diversity programs swept theaters across the nation, and has been hosting illioo Native Theatre since 2020.
You can see Jekyll and Hyde, a musical version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, through Oct. 29 at VLT. Tix and info at TheVLT.com.