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Saturday, February 13, 2016

It Took a Village to Build Village Players, Now Celebrating 50 Years in Fort Thomas

George Hewitt and Mary Haas in "The Cemetery Club"  (1992).
By Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

Village Players of Fort Thomas begins its 50th anniversary year this week with a production of popular community theater comedy Dearly Departed, playing Feb. 12-20.

While the official celebration isn’t until June 4, this is a good time to remember that it took a village of enthusiasts to found Village Players, and it takes a village of community theater participants and audiences to keep it active for 50 years.

Mary Haas, a priceless asset to Northern Kentucky community theater, happily reminisced about the beginning of Village Players, when she and the late Henrietta Gosney and Marian Pladies, all members of Fort Thomas Women’s Club, were among a few ladies determined to start a theater.

They would do plays at various school auditoriums “and rehearse at my house,” Haas laughed, but their efforts were nomadic. “We wanted to become a theater group. We wanted to do a season.”
So the trio went in search of a permanent home. Their first stop was The Fort, “which had several buildings and an amphitheater” but the three worried, “what if the Army takes it back?”

They kept looking – and remembered there was a basement at the Fort Thomas Women’s Club.
Enter husbands, kids, and friends (including Frank and Laura Beard and Bob and Thelma Albrecht) to turn a basement into a viable if tiny (102-seat) theater.

“What I most remember,” Haas laughed, “is it was the filthiest place. And the thick walls!”
The thick walls are why the theater has a thrust stage.

How to build a thrust stage? Mary and husband Don Haas were Playhouse in the Park subscribers and “we went early one day and snuck on the stage and took measurements!” Soon Village Players had its own thrust stage.

Village Players’ first production was in 1966. Haas can’t remember how they chose The Solid Gold Cadillac, a savvy romantic comedy about a young woman who owns a little stock in a big corporation but nevertheless makes her voice heard. Haas mused, “Henrietta Gosney played the lead…”

There was the production of The Women which famously had a cast of 40 and Haas’ ‘environmental’ production of Rain. “I made it rain on stage! And I told the staff not to turn the air-conditioning on,” so the audience would get a sense of the sweltering South Seas locale of W. Somerset Maugham’s drama. She did allow the AC on for the second act.

The good times on the Village Players stage continue. Dearly Departed, set in the Baptist backwoods of The Bible Belt is about the beleaguered and extended Turpin family, trying to pull themselves together for their patriarch’s funeral, but life is just doggone filled with extenuating circumstances.

The comedy is being produced by another Village Players MVP, Peggy Kenney. The cast includes Betty Coulter, Patrick Downey, Melissa Keller, Judy Littlefield, Chris Payne, Laura Petracco, Richelle Roth, Judy Sceifres, Doug Tumeo, Dustin Wagner, and Ginny Butsch.

Dearly Departed, Feb. 12-20. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. The Village Players of Fort Thomas, 8 North Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas. Tickets $17. Opening night is sold out. Sunday is a Valentine’s Day matinee, $25. and 859-392-0500.

This article was republished with permission. The original article can be found at The River City News here. 

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