Concord Players' Birthday Bash!

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Birthday Bash: (Sunday, October 20, 2019 at 7pm)

There were no signs of old age at the Players' 100th birthday party on October 20th. No, it was with the enthusiasm and vigor of the very young (and young at heart) that one hundred and seventy-five Players, past and present, packed the hall at 51 Walden for a happy celebration of a century of theater. They partied with gusto at a fete that rivaled the bright lights of Broadway.

Guests were greeted by a 5-ft birthday "cake" in the lobby, designed by Brian Harris, complete with birthday candles and crowned with a cake topper boasting the sparkling numerals "100." The "confection," which happily is non-perishable, will remain in the lobby for the season. Players will commemorate the centennial in three segments with shows that represent the first, second, and third eras of the century, and with lobby exhibitions of archival material.

The hall was dressed for the party with glittering cloths of silver and gold on table-tops, and adorned with top hats, white gloves, and pearls, timeless symbols of style and panache. The theme reflected the Players' first 30 years, spanning from the end of WWI to the white-telephone movies of the 1930s. Twinkling white lights winked at party-goers from the walls, adding an extra touch of glamour.

Food was abundant and presented with the artful flair that only a theater company would care to craft. Multi-tiered displays of hors d'oeuvres towered over elegant silver trays of delicacies. A shining silver vase displayed an extravagant bouquet of pink plumes on the center table. The gathering was imbued with a feeling of warmth and camaraderie, enhanced no doubt by generous servings of fine champagne and sips of "The Bees Knees," a gin and lemon-honey-water concoction recreated from a 1920s recipe.

The festivities opened with remarks from the Players' president Jay Newlon, elegantly attired in tuxedo and white silk scarf.  State Representative Tami Gouveia presented an official declaration from the Massachusetts House of Representatives recognizing the milestone occasion and spoke of the importance of art as an essential element to a fulsome life.  Mike Lawson, Chair of Concord's Select Board, then proclaimed October 20th as "Concord Players Day" and hailed the organization's contributions to the community's cultural and economic vitality.
Co-chairs Paul Murphy and Tracy Wall teased the assembly with an overview of all the 100th festivities to come.  Party goers were treated to an informed and thought-provoking presentation about Vaudevillian Fanny Brice, the main character in the Players' upcoming production of Funny Girl, by theater historian Trav S.D., who came to Concord from the Big Apple to help the Players celebrate.

Right on cue, Trav was followed by a sneak preview of the show by the Players' Funny Girl cast. Director Brian Kelly could be spotted beaming from the back of the house as Meghan Rose, in the role of Fanny, delivered a tender, heart-rending performance of the show's iconic song People, proving our young performer could step out of the looming shadow of a giant like Streisand and claim the song as her own.

When not imbibing in the Bees Knees, or reveling in the hall, party goers edified themselves on the Players' history by strolling through the lobby where a museum-style display chronicled the Players' years from 1919 through 1942. The display was meticulously researched by the History subcommittee, including Jean Devine, Linda McConchie, Susan Tucker, and Tracy Wall, who pored over stacks of archival material from CP's vault and the special collections housed at the Concord Library. The exhibit gives an absorbing look at the Players' early years, its ongoing commitment to the highest standard of theater craft, and its values of intellectual growth and community spirit.

The evening was an apt beginning to a season that will celebrate the Players' inspired origins and the spirit of fellowship and goodwill that continues to enthuse its members.

It is that spirit of fellowship and collaboration which defines theater as an art form, and that is why so many of us love to participate. This birthday party was a production just like any other, and required the same convergence of many heads and hearts to bring inspired thinking, imaginative planning, and good old fashioned elbow grease to its making. 

--Linda McConchie