The History of the Valley Players Community Theater

Back in the summer of 1968 a group of Valley transplants (Tony Egan, Bob Law, and Gary Murdock) were looking
for something to do in the summer and Bob, an off Broadway actor during his years in NYC, came up with the idea of forming a summer theater group. They were shortly joined by Dale Stetson, a retired Broadway set designer (and the original owner of the West Hill House B & B). They made a makeshift stage in the original Sugarbush Gate House Lodge and
entertained the community for about 5 years. As The Valley grew and there were more summer activities available, and the group found themselves getting involved in other projects and disbanded.

 

The Valley remained theater-less for about 5 years. Then, during a long, cold winter in 1978, Jennifer Howard, with much encouragement from Mitchell Kontoff, started a play reading group. Throughout that winter, this small but hardy group met at each other’s houses reading plays and eating food. Finally, in the spring, much like Spanky and 'Our Gang', they announced, “Hey, let’s put on a play!” Harvey was chosen, and Mitchell, the producer, borrowed the Fayston Elementary School gym. With seed money from the original “Players”, Don Hirsch built a gorgeous solid set. Tony Egan produced a trellis from his home. Edsel Hughes from Montpelier agreed to direct for the price of gas. This went so well that they decided to put on another production, Cactus Flower, although they had no home. They found the Odd Fellows Hall and,
thanks to some great negotiating by David Steinman and others, they moved in two weeks before Opening Night, and the rest is history.

 

In 1988, the Valley Players purchased their portion of the theater from the Oddfellows and over the years added heating, electrical systems, a workshop and a green room. The Valley Players opens its doors to other performing artists and groups, and is the home of KidsACT, a series of theater classes and camps for children grades 1 through 9.

The Mad River Valley community and all our patrons have supported the Valley Players generously over the years which means we have operated in the black the whole time. As a viable, non-profit community theater, The Valley Players purchased the highly successful Craft Fair in 1989. Staffed by Laura Arnesen and a horde of volunteers, the fair provides support to maintain our building and ensure that we continue to provide arts and entertainment in the Valley.

Now in our 4th decade, the Valley Players continue to produce 3-4 shows per year and are hosts to the Vermont Playwright's Circle's annual festival of short plays, TenFest.