As the oldest community theatre in New York State, the Players of Utica are excited to announce their 100th season of productions, but they say the ride has been far from easy. Our Cara Thomas sat down with the current and former president of the community theater group to learn a little about their history.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Over the years, the Players of Utica community theatre group have had their fair share of stories to tell, on and off the stage. They began around 1910 as a small social group, performing skits and short plays in each other’s homes. In 1913, they became an official community theatre and even since the beginning they say it's been a bumpy road.
The Players of Utica President, Vince Scalise, said, "This group has faced many, many struggles, some people might even think they've been cursed, I don't know. I kind of think they might of have been, but they've overcome so many of those."
This group endured multiple bankruptcies and building foreclosures, but the worst was yet to come. In 1999, their theatre was burned down and all was destroyed. Investigators say the cause was arson and the case has yet to be solved.
Winifred Haslam, a Players of Utica veteran, remembers that day.
Haslam said, "I was in absolute shock and horror. I wanted to cry. It was really bad. Because I had a lot of time invested in that place."
But as thespians say, the show must go on and it did. They continued to perform in rented venues and eventually raised enough money to build a space of their own. They broke ground in 2003, have spent about $1.2 million so far and there's still much to be done.
"We're $500,000, maybe $600,000 from having our main stage theatre finished. The plan is just to continue doing what we do, raising money, writing grants, to be able to afford to finish this theatre," said Scalise.
Despite it all, the players of Utica will be celebrating a huge milestone. This year they'll be embarking on their 100th season of productions, making them the oldest community theatre in New York State.
Scalise said, "We really want to move forward we want to remember all the good times but remember the bad things so we don't fail again and don't fall down again."
The Players of Utica will be hosting a gala Saturday night to celebrate this achievement. The night will be filled with entertainment, a preview of this upcoming season and a time to honor those who have been through the theatre's ups and down and had an integral part in their success.
Tickets are still available for anyone who would like to join the Centennial Celebration. tickets are $50 to attend.
For more information, go to www.playersofutica.org.