WESTFIELD — Westfield Community Players (WCP), one of the oldest continuously operating community based theater organizations in New Jersey, is celebrating their 75th anniversary season with drama, pathos, comedy and mystery.
Founded in 1934 by a small company of theater minded individuals, the group now resides in their own theater at 1000 North Avenue West in Westfield. From the first president, Lucy Buck Ellsberg to the current 39th president JoAnne Lemenille, the troupe has been an active part of the Westfield cultural scene. With their first production of The Late Christopher Bean, the group has presented shows written by Shakespeare, Neil Simon, Rodgers & Hammerstein and everyone in between, first at schools in town, and then in their cozy 150 seat theater built in the 1950’s.
As Lemenille noted, WCP’s mission is to offer hands-on participation for those wishing to learn more about various aspects of live theatrical production and performance while providing a varied theater experience to a broad audience. She added “WCP does that by actively seeking volunteers to keep our theater functioning and by maintaining an open-casting policy where everyone can audition for all of our scheduled plays”. It is these policies she believes, that help WCP attract cast members from New York City, Essex and Monmouth counties, as well as throughout Union County.
Letty Hudak, past president and long time membership chairwoman, added that volunteers really are the lifeblood of our organization. Without them, sets don’t get built, lights aren’t hung and the actors would be appearing on a bare stage. As evidence of what an all volunteer organization can achieve, WCP has been recognized by the New Jersey Association of Community Theatres (NJACT) as the 2004 recipient of the excellence in community theater award, as well as being a multiple nominee and award winner in acting and stagecraft categories.
As part of the celebration this year, WCP held a theatrically themed evening last November, added Hudak. She noted the theater was transformed into an elegant party area as costumed and tuxedo clad guests enjoyed musical entertainment while sipping champagne and reminiscing about past productions.
As a means to keep the theater functioning and viable for the next 75 years, a building campaign has been started this year to upgrade facilities. Lemenille added that a particular upgrade focuses on the lighting and sound booth at the back of the theater. She described it this way; “Currently, it is only accessible by a narrow ladder just off the lobby, making it difficult to enter and exit quickly and load in equipment. Plans have been approved by the town for an external staircase, so we are appealing to our subscribers and friends of the theater to add to our building fund for this and other projects”. Donations in any amount are welcome and can be sent to the group at 1000 North Ave. West, Westfield NJ 07090.
WCP invites you to visit their website at: www.westfieldcommunityplayers.org for more information on their theater, upcoming events and other features.
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