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peoples choice award winner 2010
A Brief History of The Chatham Players

eauty and the Jacobin (1923) Beauty and the Jacobin (1923) The Chatham Community Players began in 1922 at the parish house of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The Reverend Guy Shipler, along with his wife Becky, Major Herbert Dawley and his wife LaVerne, Scott and Kitty Hallet, and Boyd and Grace Howarth were the founding group. They demolished the back wall of the church hall, put up a usable stage area, and built risers back in the hall. In the spring of 1922, they presented The Finger of God, two one-act plays, followed by the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.


Set a Thief - 1930 Set a Thief (1930) In 1930, Chatham Community Players presented Set a Thief at the Lum Avenue School. St. Paul's was still used, but increasing space needs for Sunday School classes necessitated a full time move to the Lum Avenue School. Scenery was stored in Matt Forrest's barn on Fairmount Avenue until the barn burned down in 1948. In 1950, Jerry O'Grady offered his barn on Elmwood Avenue for set construction.


The Old PlayhouseThe Old Playhouse In addition to mounting productions of Broadway plays, two nights a year Players presented original works by Players members, including Toot Martin, whose book, Standing Ovation, chronicles our history and productions, and Eleanor Kerns, mother of current member, Peter Kerns. This practice ended in the mid-1960's because Players was presenting two major musicals as part of our regular season, and there simply wasn't enough manpower or rehearsal space available. In the late 60's and 70's, a number of special Open Houses were presented, featuring original works by members.


South Pacific (1968) Photo of South Pacific (1968) Also during the mid-1960's, Players moved to the newly built high school (the present day middle school), storing scenery in Women's Club barn on the corner of Washington and Main Streets, and props in Dr. Don Kent's basement. In 1967, Players purchased the American Legion Hall at 23 North Passaic Avenue. Dating from about the turn of the century, the building was first used as a hay and feed store, and later as a paint store. After many renovations to the space, we were able to hold rehearsals and Open Houses there, as well as meetings and parties.


Until 1970, our managing director was Maje Dawley, for whom our Dawley Award is named. Our Shipler Award honors Guy Shipler as the Kitty Hallet Award honors her, and so we remember our founders.


In 1977, we built an addition in the rear of the building, which we continue to use for storage and set construction. Finally, in 1985, using money from our building fund plus a substantial bank loan, we demolished the front section and began construction of our present blackbox theater, with members contributing much of the labor. On December 9, 2000, Chatham Community Players celebrated the paying off of that loan with a gala mortgage-burning bash!.

Mortgage Burning - beforeMortgage Burning - AfterThe Mortgage Burning Bash of 2000 - Before and After.


Special thanks to Peter Kerns and Lee Nordholm for this history.