OSWEGO — It always surprises us when someone says they have never been to a performance produced by the Oswego Players or, even more surprising, they have never heard of the group itself.
That’s like living in Buffalo and saying you never visited Niagara Falls. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. As the OP celebrates its 83rd Anniversary this year, we wanted to share with you some of our history.
When the houselights go out, the magic of the theater begins. The Oswego Players have welcomed audiences to performances since 1938, when the group was formed by local educator Frances Marion Brown.
The Oswego Players, Inc., is one of the oldest continuously-operating, all-volunteer community theater organizations in the country. Formed by a group of local residents interested in presenting theater productions in Oswego, the organization first had to hold its productions at the Robinson Auditorium in the old Oswego High School and other venues where a play could be staged.
In 1963 the group obtained a lease for Building No. 30 in the Fort Ontario Park complex that would ultimately house the Oswego Civic Arts Center. On March 20, 1964, the Players were granted a Provisional Charter by the New York State Board of Regents for their purposes: “to advance cultural activities of the community through theatrical productions and through stimulating interest and participation in activities relating to the drama; to render assistance, advice, and service, to other community organizations and individuals in drama-oriented projects; and to sponsor an education program of Children’s Theater including periods of instruction for children, and presentations by and for children.”
The group was a member and helped found the New York State Community Theater Association and was awarded its prestigious Mary Eva Duthie Award in 1962 as the Most Outstanding Community Theater in the state. The New York State Community Theater Association and the Theater Festival Association, in which the Players held membership, merged to form the Theater Association of New York State (TANYS) with the Players maintaining membership in the organization. Over the years the OP has continued to fulfill its charter obligations and on April 25, 1969 was granted an Absolute Charter by the Board of Regents.
Now operating out of the Frances Marion Brown Theater in the Civic Arts Center, the Oswego Players, Inc., stages five major productions a year, all with volunteer participation and no paid staff. The Players hold theater classes for youth in the area and each year award scholarships to graduating high school seniors from Oswego County pursuing higher education in the broad fields of theater and the fine arts. In addition, local playwrights are encouraged to submit their work in competition for the Don McCann Play Writing Award.
Whether it’s a modern Broadway classic, a new play, comedy, drama, musical or children’s production, the Players try to appeal to a cross section of interests. After being closed last year because of the COVID pandemic, we think we have a great season of shows ready as we re-open this summer.
The Frances Marion Brown Theater has been called a “gem” of a theater and has been applauded by directors from across the spectrum of educators in Central New York as well as New York City.
With just over 100 seats, the intimate nature of the theater puts the audience up close and personal with the action, making everyone feel that they are part of the performance. And this year, thanks to the support of the city of Oswego, individual donors, and the overwhelming generosity of the Shineman Foundation, we are looking better than ever on the inside and outside of the Civic Arts Center. Wait till you see all the improvements!
We invite you to join us for a performance in the Frances Marion Brown Theater in the Oswego Civic Arts Center for the coming season. Even better, come down to a meeting, get involved, pound a few nails, or help paint a set. We love having new folks become involved. And what a great way to give back to our wonderful community.
— Paul McKinney, Oswego Players vice president for administration