Oswego Players celebrates 83 years of community theater | arts and entertainment

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OSWEGO – It always surprises us when someone says they’ve never seen a performance produced by Oswego players or, even more surprisingly, they’ve never heard of the band themselves.

It’s like living in Buffalo and saying you’ve never visited Niagara Falls. That might be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. As the PO celebrates its 83rd anniversary this year, we wanted to share some of our history with you.

When the house lights go out, the theater magic begins. The Oswego players have been hosting audiences at shows since 1938, when the group was formed by local educator Frances Marion Brown.

The Oswego Players, Inc. is one of the nation’s oldest all-volunteer community theater organizations. Formed by a group of local residents interested in presenting theatrical productions in Oswego, the organization was initially to stage its productions at the Robinson Auditorium at the old Oswego High School and other venues where a play could be staged.

In 1963, the group secured a lease for Building No. 30 in the Fort Ontario Park complex which would eventually house the Oswego Civic Arts Center. On March 20, 1964, the cast received a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents for the purpose of: “advancing the cultural pursuits of the community through theatrical productions and by stimulating the interest and participation in drama-related activities; to provide assistance, advice and services to other community organizations and individuals in theater-based projects; and to sponsor an educational theater program for children including instructional periods for children and presentations by and for children.

The group was a member of and helped found the New York State Community Theater Association and received 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, of which the players were members, merged to form the Theater Association of New York State (TANYS), with the players remaining members of the organization. Over the years, the PO continued to fulfill its charter obligations, and on April 25, 1969, the Board of Regents granted it an absolute charter.

Now operating out of the Frances Marion Brown Theater at the Civic Arts Center, Oswego Players, Inc. stages five major productions a year, all with volunteer involvement and no paid staff. The Players run acting classes for area youth and annually award scholarships to Oswego County high school seniors pursuing higher education in the broad fields of acting and fine arts. Additionally, local playwrights are encouraged to submit their work in competition for the Don McCann Play Writing Award.

Whether it’s a modern Broadway classic, new play, comedy, drama, musical or children’s production, players try to make appeal to a range of interests. After being closed last year due to the COVID pandemic, we believe we have a great show season ready for our reopening this summer.

The Frances Marion Brown Theater has been called a “gem” of theater and has been applauded by directors from across Central New York City as well as New York City educators.

With just over 100 seats, the intimate nature of the theater brings the audience closer to the action, making everyone feel 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 look better than ever inside and outside the Civic Arts Center. Wait to see all the improvements!

We invite you to join us for a performance at the Frances Marion Brown Theater at the Oswego Civic Arts Center for the upcoming season. Better yet, come to a meeting, get involved, hammer in some nails, or help paint some decor. We love getting new people involved. And what a great way to give back to our wonderful community.

— Paul McKinney, Executive Vice President of Oswego Players

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