Robert Sean Leonard, Tony Award-winner and "House" star. Beth Fowler invented Mrs. Potts in "Beauty and the Beast" "Beauty and the Beast" directed by Robert Jess Roth. Allison Smith, "Annie" and "Kate & Allie" star. Robert McClure of "Something Rotten," "Noises Off," "Chaplin the Musical," and "Avenue Q."
These prominent actors and actresses began their careers with the Bergen County Players (BCP). Aside from the usual suspects at the bank, you may see a doctor or a writer in the grocery, school, coffee shop, or mall.
The Bergen County Players began as a tiny community theater with a massive reputation for great shows. The Players' 89th season features musicals, comedy, drama, and suspense.
President Herbert Hoover was experiencing issues in 1932. Breadlines were widespread during the Great Depression. But the theater realized it had a function, too: to amuse. So, several amateur theater companies from Bergen County convened in a Hackensack YMCA back room. They formed a theatrical community group named The Bergen County Players Inc. Helen Burke Travolta, John Travolta's mother, was there that night. This portrait of her with the other founding members is still displayed in the lounge Little Firehouse Theatre lounge, where the Players now reside. It was there long before her kid became renowned.
The theatrical troupe performed in high school auditoriums, barns, and The Barn Theater in River Edge. It had a pot-bellied stove and skunks living beneath the foundation. Unfortunately, the building burnt in 1944. Nobody knows what caused the fire, which left the Players homeless. The next play opened on time at Bergen Junior College, then Fairleigh Dickinson University's Teaneck campus.
Oradell erected a new firehouse in 1949, leaving the old one on Kinderkamack Road unoccupied. Bergen County Players saw the firehouse's potential quickly (pictured right, during renovations in 1949). After negotiating with the municipality, they took over the area, erected a stage on the rear, and installed seats where the old fire engines were. The theater erected a rehearsal and storage extension in 1969, boosted seating capacity to 210 in 1980, installed central air conditioning in 1982, automated the ticket office in the 1990s, and recently provided handicapped accessibility.
The theater's creative offerings have grown throughout time. "Conversations With An Artist" began in 1987 to allow members and the public to speak with professional artists. Tony Award-winning actor Philip Bosco ("Lend Me A Tenor," "Moon Over Buffalo") and Tony Award-winning author Rupert Holmes ("The Mystery of Edwin Drood," "Curtains") have all spoken at the event. In 2001, Holmes teamed with the Bergen County Players to premiere his new piece, "Thumbs."
The Bergen County Players produce seven main-stage and two second-stage productions annually. In addition, the December children's entertainment delights all ages.
The non-profit Bergen County Players has about 300 volunteer members. Many married couples met here, and numerous generations of families still visit. The theater uses this skilled pool on and off the stage, with three productions in rehearsal plus workshops and set building. It intends to flourish and provide years of outstanding entertainment.
For almost 80 years, the Bergen County Players have welcomed hundreds of thousands of people to enjoy live theater, some for the first time. Many return and bring new folks. In addition, hundreds of performers, directors, and technicians have discovered a home away from home and a training ground for theatrical magic. Thanks to its numerous sponsors, Bergen County Players has become a top little theater organization. Learn more by visiting their website or by calling them at 201-261-4200.
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