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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Village Players of Fort Thomas Donates Spring Proceeds to Fort Thomas Garden Club

A summer planter installed by the Fort Thomas Garden Club in front of Village Players of Fort Thomas at 8 North Fort Thomas Ave. 

It's been a longstanding tradition for Village Players of Fort Thomas to donate proceeds from its spring shows. This year, the loved community theater group, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has chosen the equally loved Fort Thomas Garden Club as the recipient of its spring show proceeds.

Girls of the Garden Club

Performances of "Girls of the Garden Club" by John Patrick will be held April 22-30, 2016. All tickets are $17 and can be purchased by calling 859-392-0500 or online, here

In 1966 members of the Fort Thomas Woman's Club formed Village Players of Fort Thomas. They, along with their families, renovated the theatre in the lower level of the club located at 8 North Fort Thomas Ave. They purchased seats from a renovated bowling alley.

In May 1967 Village Players held its first production: "The Solid Gold Cadillac." Throughout the years the the building was further renovated. In 1983, the bowling alley seats were replaced with seats from the upper balcony of the Palace Theatre in Cincinnati, which was slated for demolition. And in 1985, the production season extended, thanks to the addition of air conditioning. Musicals and children's productions were added, as well as new seats (again), a computerized lighting system and a modern sound system.

For years Village Players supported Camp Sunshine with its spring show proceeds, donating more than $95,000 to the camp, which served underprivileged children in Campbell County. The camp closed in 2003 and since then Village Players has continued its tradition of giving, choosing a new charity or organization each year. Village Players also provides two scholarships to high school seniors majoring in the arts each year.

In many ways it's fitting that Village Players, while celebrating its 50th anniversary, chose the Garden Club as the spring show beneficiary. The Garden Club plans to use a portion of the spring show proceeds for its centennial project in celebration of its 100th anniversary in 2021.

"We thought it was very fitting to keep it local and a great way to give back to our community," says Teresa Myers. Myers has been involved with Village Players since 1986, when she had a role in "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum". "I am pretty sure I have been involved in at least one show every year since then," Myers says.

Myers, who was born and raised north of the river in Mt. Washington, got her start in community theater with Mariemont Players Inc., in 1982—it's also where she met her husband, Steve. "We have been doing theater together ever since," she says. They married and moved to Fort Thomas in 1987, and today Myers works for the Cincinnati Arts Association as the Operations Manager for Broadway in Cincinnati. She also serves as Treasurer for Village Players, and has been a board member for 24 years with the group. "This season I have worked on all four shows in varying capacities," she says. "Steve and I have made Village Players our second home." The community theater group is run entirely by volunteers.

In addition to producing "Girls of the Garden Club," Myers will play the role of Angelica, one of the girls in the club. "This comedy is about Rhoda, who is a member of her garden club and desperately wants her husband to build her a greenhouse," Myers says. "She gets some of the members of the group to work with her to make it happen."

Alison Murphy, president of the Garden Club of Fort Thomas, takes her gardening experience to the next level, pictured here, surrounded by lavender plants at the Paris Flower Show in June.

Alison Reik Murphy, president of the Fort Thomas Garden Club, says the organization is thrilled to receive such a gift and "pay it forward" to Fort Thomas. "Hopefully our efforts to beautify the town inspired them to support us ... and not the competitive Rhoda Greenleaf character featured in the production!" Murphy says, jokingly. "I have no doubt the play itself will be very entertaining. Our members hope to support the production by attending and promoting it. We plan to use the proceeds to enhance what we currently do for the city and to support our centennial project in 2021." 

Murphy's family has lived in Fort Thomas for many generations. "I was raised in Miami, Fla., but at the age of 13, came to live in Fort Thomas," she says. "I grew up visiting my grandparents here, learning to love this special place from a very young age. In addition to raising three children with my husband, Brian, I own a landscape design and installation business called Branch Out Design. The majority of my clients are Fort Thomas residents. Currently, I am very honored to be the president of the Fort Thomas Garden Club." 

Murphy's family has been a part of the Garden Club for a long time. "A few of my relatives were founding members, and my great grandmother, grandmother and stepmom are past members," Murphy says. "I joined the group six years ago and I'm proud to follow in their footsteps." 

For the past five years Murphy represented the Garden Club on the Fort Thomas Green Team. "In 2002, the Green Team was established by citizens to organize and plan the city's Gateway Parks, the green spaces at the three main entrances to Fort Thomas," Murphy says. "While the larger projecgts are complete, the Green Team still partners with the city to maintain the horticulture at the gateways and helps out when new projects arise. This spring, we plan to enhance the plants in some of the business district medians that have matured or died due to tough street conditions and extreme weather." 

Alison Murphy (far right) with Garden Club of Fort Thomas members, Sally Muhlenkamp (fark left), Courtney Shannon and Sara Ellison, during the spring planting project last May. 

Yes, those loves plants and flowers you see in the planters and in medians throughout the city? Thank the Garden Club. "We select and plant the annuals throughout the Fort Thomas business district," Murphy says. "Fort Thomas Florist helps us accomplish this each year and we couldn't do it without them. We also maintain the beds by weeding and pruning them when needed." 

Alison Murphy (upper right) with Garden Club members during the Christmas Tree decoration project in December.

Each year the Garden Club also decorates the town's Christmas tree and winter planters featured in the Holiday Walk. "Our group spends many hours on our projects and the members in charge of them are very dedicated," Murphy says.

Established in 1921, the Fort Thomas Garden Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary July 18, 2021. "We are one of the oldest garden clubs in our area," Murphy says. "We meet once a month to share a lunch together, learn about horticulture from knowledgeable guest speakers and discuss the various projects we are responsible for annually. We are in the beginning stages of planning a centennial project that will benefit the city." 

This year the Garden Club is working on a memorial to honor one of its former members, Martha Anderson, who passed away in 2004. "The Anderson family donated funds for this project, which includes the installation of a bench, a water fountain and a tree on the corner of St. Nicholas Place and North Fort Thomas Ave.," Murphy says. "The city will update the sidewalk hardscape as well. There is no water fountain in the midsection of town except at the fire station, and we are excited to make this happen for our community. The water fountain is three-tiered, and will provide water for our four-legged friends also." 

Both Myers and Murphy agree on the importance of community organizations supporting one another, resulting in goodness for all. "This is our community," Myers says. "It's where we live, where we have chosen to raise our families, where we can socialize and feel connected. The more we work together just reinforces the sense of community and pride we have in our great town." 

Murphy says community organizations must support each other because we are all in the same boat. "We work year after year providing service to our city and its residents," she says. "Budgets are always a factor, but we do what we can to make our community better. We may have different missions or volunteer opportunities, but we all have one common goal, and that is to make our community the best it can be with what we specifically provide. The members of the Fort Thomas Garden Club are some of the most generous women I know. They truly care about the beautification of our town. The majority of our members volunteer throughout our community in several organizations." 

Murphy adds that the entire Garden Club is honored to be recognized by the Village Players this year. "This organization of talented actors has been entertaining our residents for 50 years," Murphy says. "Our small town is truly blessed to have such a cultural gift in the center of our community. The Fort Thomas Garden Club encourages all theater lovers to support and attend the performances of "The Girls of the Garden Club," starting April 22. We are honored to be on the receiving end of such a donation and are looking forward to putting it to good use." 

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