|Village Players is at the beginning stages of planning renovations to its building. The theatre group took over the building from the Fort Thomas Women's Club in October 2019.|
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor
After more than 100 years of service to the community, the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club made the decision to disband in the fall of 2018. The club, whose motto was "to help others is to elevate ourselves, and to elevate ourselves is to help others," made a final act of generosity that is set to elevate the community for years to come.
At the end of October, the organization gifted its building to its very special tenants, the Village Players. The theatre group, which was started by members of the women’s club and grew out of the club’s Music and Drama Department, has been located in the women’s building since 1967.
The theatre group built a thrust-style theater (a stage with seating on three sides) in the basement of the women’s building and took on a vibrant life of its own, bringing people from across the community into the space to enjoy community theater.
A new era takes shape
Last week, members and friends of Village Players were busy ripping out 1970s-era paneling and busting through old plaster at their building at 8 Fort Thomas Avenue.
It’s the beginning of an ambitious project to bring the building up to modern standards and to create a more friendly and accessible cultural and community center in the heart of Fort Thomas.
The building is in need of basic repairs to make it serviceable including a new boiler and radiators, upgraded HVAC, new drywall and other renovations. In addition, the group would like to make the space more accessible and bring it to life as a center for the arts and culture.
Excitement as the future unfolds
"Plans are not finalized yet, but we are beginning work with an architect," said Steve Myers, who has been active in community theater since the early 1970s and member of the Village Players since 1975.
"We have raised some money to start working on tearing down and planning what’s next, but we are working on a more concise plan going forward. We need to secure a grant. We have committees working on this, including a grant writing team," he said.
While the plan is to keep the group’s theater space in the basement of the building, he said, "I’m not sure what I would like to see it become. We want to open up the space and have a real box office...It’s scary but exciting. I’m anxious to see what will happen going forward, what path we will take."
Performances continue while plans are being made
Myers and volunteers were working on the tear downs while also preparing for the Village Players’ upcoming show, Life Story, that will run from Friday, June 28, through Sunday, June 30. The show features six new plays by local authors about "birth, death and the stuff in between."
RELATED: Village Players of Fort Thomas presents local playwrights' plays
The company does three full-run productions during the regular season from October through April with a family friendly play in December. The line up for 2019-2020 season includes "Arcadia" (October), "Room for Seconds" (March) and "The Last Five Years" (April) as well as "Of Dragons and Dwarfs" (December).
In the summer, they produce a shorter show to provide room for Caroline Stine’s InBocca Performance group for young actors.
Creating a space all can enjoy
The building also is available to rent for meeting space and events. There is a stage on the second floor and a kitchen. Myers hopes to improve the space on the first and second floors to accommodate a variety of community uses.
"We want to create a friendly space, a place for people to meet, maybe do staged readings, wedding receptions, dance recitals," said Myers. "We are hoping to become a vibrant part of the central city."
The project is, as one would expect, near and dear to Myers' heart. "This has been my second home for the last forty years. It’s a nice place to hang out. I would love to get the community more involved and generate some excitement throughout the city," he said.