The Suffield Players is an organization founded in 1952 to provide a theater experience for the local area and to encourage volunteers with an interest in, and talent for, acting. It is one of many small-town theater companies in northern Connecticut. To this day its actors are mostly skilled amateurs, people passionate about the theater and willing to donate many hours of rehearsal and performance time to each production–with the occasional specialist of one sort or another, paid a modest stipend. Those among us who have seen the company’s productions in the past have been impressed with their quality. The small theater on Mapleton Avenue, a former Grange Hall, which The Suffield Players own and occupy, is a charming space, and one in which every seat allows for a good viewing experience.
Because of COVID restrictions the company has not been able to offer in-person performances for the last 18 months. However, the new season has given the group the opportunity to stage a brand-new season, centered around a theme of small-town life which should resonate with Suffield residents, beginning with The Dining Room, a comedy about a family enterprise. Those of us who enjoyed the recent 350th parade down Main Street were entertained by the Suffield Players’ float, with a bottle of mustard and a bottle of ketchup running alongside–perhaps a clue to their upcoming post-COVID debut! Of course, some restrictions will continue: members of the audience will be required to show proof of vaccination, to wear masks, and to honor a reduced seating plan.
The second presentation will be A Christmas Carol, designed to celebrate the holiday season, followed by Almost, Maine, a series of stories about residents of an isolated town, and finally, Steel Magnolias, a popular movie some years ago. Further information about all of these, including dates and times, can be found online. Ticket sales support each show; donations are directed to the upkeep of the Hall and the maintenance of the historic building.
Suffield Players is overseen by a Board of Trustees, who select the plays and hire a director for each. The director then holds auditions and selects actors; the sets–some simple, some elaborate– are designed and constructed by volunteers.
Costumes must be made from scratch, retrieved from storage or rented. A pool of interested actors and other theater personnel can be found on social media, and usually as many as 50 or 60 candidates attend the auditions. Each production takes 20 or more rehearsals, which are held three nights a week before the performance. The sets are built on three or four Saturdays. Storing the sets can be a challenge. The organization has a barn on the property which is used for that and other purposes. A play usually has to be cast during the run of its predecessor, which requires careful use of space and time for all concerned.
Theater people often develop the special camaraderie that results from a common focus on an important effort, on teamwork, and on a happy outcome. Reports have it that the Suffield Players find their efforts here challenging, rewarding, and “lots of fun” for those who sign up. The results certainly provide lots of fun for audiences as well; may their new season be a spectacular success!