OSWEGO - It was Frances Marion Brown’s idea. The year was 1938. Fran was teaching English and drama at the Oswego High School and along with some of her friends and colleagues were interested in presenting theater productions in Oswego. At the time they would meet in each other’s homes as a group and eventually were able to stage their first production in the Robinson Auditorium in the old high school. As the group grew, they performed wherever they could locate space and often would find themselves acting in various churches around town, in the YMCA, the Fortnightly Club or anywhere they thought a play could be staged.
The group became more than just a theater group as they sponsored parties for orphans, supported various Boy and Girl Scout activities, participated in the United Way Campaign and was very active in the Oswego City Centennial. Over time the Oswego Players (OP) became a well known and respected group in and around Oswego County.
As time went on, the group felt the need to find a home for the organization and in 1963 obtained a 99-year lease for building no. 30 in the Fort Ontario Park complex. Since then, they have shared the building with the Art Association of Oswego. The building is now known as the Civic Arts Center of Oswego. The Art Association holds regular classes in its studio on the main floor, pottery instruction in their pottery shop downstairs, and wonderful art exhibits in the art gallery on the second floor. Together they share an attractive center area lobby.
A major turning point for the Players occurred on March 20, 1964 when they were granted a Provisional Charter by the New York State Board of Regents. In 1969, the state upgraded this to an Absolute Charter for the continued purposes: “to advance cultural activities of the community through theatrical productions and through stimulating interest and participation in activities relating to drama; and to sponsor an education program of Children’s Theater including periods of instruction for children, and presentations by and for children.”
Since its beginnings, the OP has been an all volunteer organization. Members come from all around the county and bring their individual skills and talents as actors, carpenters, directors, costumers, dancers, and most importantly cheerleaders. The common magnet is putting on plays, and everyone who walks into the Frances Marion Brown Theater as a patron gets to revel in the small 100 seat theater spirit that surrounds them.
This year marks the 82nd anniversary of the Oswego Players, Inc. One can only imagine how excited Fran Brown would be knowing that what started as an idea has now become an institution. The Players prides itself as one of the oldest continuous community theater groups in the nation.
And so, it is with great excitement and pride that the board of directors of the Oswego Players announces its 2020 main stage season. The year includes: “Dearly Departed,” a funny family romp for the whole family to enjoy late March, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a rollicking musical in early June, “Twilight Bowl,” an award winning all woman adult comedy mid September, and “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” a Christmas show comedy.
The Theater Arts Youth Academy (TAYA) enters its second year this February. TAYA provided students eight to 18 years old, ongoing free classes in the many disciplines of theater arts, and produces full stage productions for, by and about youth.
It’s going to be busy year. So keep a lookout out for the many opportunities available to young and more than young on our website: oswegoplayers.org. and in the local press. And remember, we are always looking for new members to join in the community of live theater.
Many wonderfully dedicated people have “crossed the stage” of the theater, painted the flats of a stunning set, sold a ticket at the box office and simply basked in the footlights of the Oswego Players over these past 82 years. And still today the mission and the passion remain strong. As Fran Brown said herself many years ago, “We’ve weathered many a storm and are still holding true to the reason we were started- to bring good theater by local casts to Oswego and its environs, and have fun doing it.”