The building known as The Lyric (that now houses Ouachita Little Theatre) was originally built as a movie house in 1923. The Lyric had three other locations.  The first Lyric opened in Mena on Monday, September 12, 1909.   The third building burned in a fire, on January 27, 1922.  After the fire, the building where OLT presently resides at 610 Mena Street opened Monday October 1, 1923. It was owned and built by Mr. Price McCall, who also ran a laundry.

For seven years The Lyric showed only silent movies. In 1930 it was equipped with sound and introduced the community to the theater’s first “talkie”, the 1929 hit with Al Jolson, Say It With Songs. Eleven years later, locally born radio and movie celebrities Lum and Abner appeared live on its stage three different times to promote their movies.  They showcased the premier of their first movie, Dreaming Out Loud, (pictured left) on Friday September 6, 1940. It caused a lot of excitement in the Polk County area at the time, with over 3500 people in attendance!


With several different ownerships, The Lyric continued as Mena’s only movie theater until 1982. For several years during this period, it also doubled as a movie house and a live theater featuring performances on Saturday nights.  Local performers would gather outside and around the corner from The Lyric and put on impromptu shows.  Local resident and historian, the late Roy Vail along with Jay Rodgers, introduced a similar theme for performers to showcase their talents once a month and called it Saturday Night at the Lyric. That tradition continued for several years as the 20th century came to a close. 

Ouachita Little Theatre was founded in 1979 by Leda Benson.  She was an experienced thespian who found other interested people and began putting on plays in the local Mena Middle School Auditorium. In 1985, the OLT took possession of the Lyric building, and converted it to accommodate live performances.  The Ouachita Little Theatre paid off the mortgage on the building in the fall of 2023, almost exactly 100 years to the day that The Lyric opened as a movie house.

On November 13, 1993, a devastating tornado that wreaked havoc on downtown Mena swept the back third of the theater away. Two people were inside at the time but were fortunately not injured.  It took two years to renovate the theater to the point that plays could be performed there again. The OLT stayed active, even without their “home” by performing once again at the Mena Middle School auditorium until 1995.  The theater lost a lot of seating capacity, but most of it survived intact, much to the delight of OLT audiences and performers. 

A second F3 tornado ripped through downtown Mena on April 9, 2009 causing heavy damage to homes and businesses.  The Lyric building suffered only minor damage from this devastating storm that changed the landscape of Mena forever.  There were a lot of people, including young children, in the building at the time rehearsing for Camelot.  Thankfully, once again, there were no injuries in the OLT building.  However, the Mena community tragically suffered the loss of three of its citizens in the powerful storm.

As any building that is over 100 years old, there is constant maintenance and repair required to keep the Lyric in good shape.  Past and present OLT officers, board members, and many other OLT members have volunteered their skills and time to keep The Lyric Theatre in great shape.  They are to be commended for their dedication.  Over the last several years, there have been many technical upgrades.  These include a new sound system, lighting, revitalizing the lobby and seating, and a catwalk that ensures safety for those working on technical areas above the stage and theater.  The Lyric Theatre is a grand lady that deserves respect and love for the historical significance it has played in the town of Mena, Arkansas. 

Ouachita Little Theatre is a non-profit organization that relies totally on volunteers to run the “business” that brings live theatre to the rural community in the heart of the Ouachita Mountain region.  The all-volunteer staff, officers, and board members love this building and the Ouachita Little Theatre that is at its heart.  They ask you to join them in volunteering by donating your tax-deductible dollars to support the ongoing renovation of The Lyric Theatre.  For more information, see our website at