Dr. and Mrs. John Lawrence, along with Mr. and Mrs. “Red” Argubright, co-owned the old Arrow Rock Baptist church, left vacant when congregations consolidated, due to a declining population in the village. The Lawrences and the Argubrights offered to make the empty building available to house a theatre.
Mr. Henry Swanson, a professor at Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, now Columbia College, was engaged as Artistic Director, who proposed the Lyceum’s first budget: $3,500. The first season consisted of three nineteenth century plays, opening with The Importance of Being Earnest.
Mr. Swanson wrote: “If you visit Arrow Rock today you will find a quaint, serene village with virtually every building restored; rest rooms, running water, and an expanded Lyceum with functional air-conditioning and rest rooms. Not so in 1961. Living conditions were terrible, half the town was in shanty-town shape, our water came from the Santa-Fe spring (now condemned) in gallon jugs with bugs swimming in the water. Kansas City Power and Light had to re-wire the town from the highway just to get 100 ampere service to the theatre. It was hard, desperate work but still we opened on schedule with twenty-six dollars and change remaining from the initial capitalization.”
In 1967 a building fund committee was formed to raise money for a much needed expansion that would consolidate the scene shop and costume shop (then located two blocks from the theatre), increase the size and comfort of the theatre for the audience, and expand and better equip the stage (then only 9 feet by 20 feet). The cost would be $45,000. Ground was broken in spring of 1969. The new expansion opened on July 3rd of that year.