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History of the Uwharrie Players

 
 

 

    The Uwharrie Players, Inc. has been the community theater organization of Stanly County for over thirty-five years. The Players were formed in the spring of 1975 as an outgrowth of the Stanly County Arts Council. Thirty-four charter members set out to establish a vehicle that would provide local citizens an opportunity to perform on stage and that would expose Stanly County to quality theatrical entertainment.

    Curt Little was elected as the Uwharrie Players’ first president. However, a career opportunity required Little to leave Albemarle after serving for only two months. The elected vice-president, Ken Campbell, became president and immediately began preparations for the Uwharrie Players’ first show. On June 12, 1975, the curtain went up on the Players’ production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s OKLAHOMA. Community theater was off and running in Stanly County.

    In the thirty plus years since that June night in 1975, the Uwharrie Players have presented over 100 plays. At least 1,200 people have been involved in these shows, and over 57,000 people have paid to watch them.

    For nearly two years, the Uwharrie Players operated without a true business component. In 1977, the Players revised their constitution and by-laws to include an elected board of directors that would handle the business of the organization. Bob Compton was elected by the newly formed board to serve as its first chairperson. The organization was also incorporated at this time and its official title became the Uwharrie Players, Inc.

    Two characteristics have always distinguished the Uwharrie Players from most community theater groups. First, the shows that are selected to be presented each season are done so by a vote of the organization’s entire membership. This process was written into the original by-laws and has never been changed. A different process for selecting plays has been discussed from time to time, but has always been voted down by the Players’ membership.

    The other distinguishing trait of the Uwharrie Players is that the organization has never had a permanent, paid staff person. Directors and other production staff positions are hired on a one show at a time basis. Organizational administration and fund raising are, and always have been done on a voluntary basis.

    Over the years, the Uwharrie Players’ shows have been performed in a number of locations. In the early years, the Albemarle High School auditorium was the site most frequently used. Other locations included Central Elementary School’s auditorium, the North Stanly High School auditorium, Pfeiffer University’s campus theater, and the old Center movie theater. In 1989, Stanly County opened a new Agri-Civic Center with an 1,100 seat auditorium. That facility housed nearly every U.P. production for the next decade. In recent years, for size and financial reasons, some of the Players’ smaller shows have gone back to smaller venues such as school auditoriums, churches, market station and Dennis Vinyards.

    Of the many shows presented by the Uwharrie Players, several have earned distinction. Plays that have been presented twice by the Players include: OKLAHOMA, LI"L ABNER, GUYS AND DOLLS, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, DRACULA THE MUSICAL, THE FOREIGNER, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN and ANNIE.  THE SOUND OF MUSIC has been performed three times.  The inspirational rock musical, GODSPELL, holds the honor of being the Uwharrie Players’ most repeated show – four times (1979, 1980, 1985, 2001). FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1977), ANNIE (1987), GREASE (1998), THE KING AND I (2006), and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2007) were the best attended shows in Uwharrie Players’ history. GREASE holds the distinction of being the most financially successful production ever.

    In 1988, Gary Moran and Joan Giglio initiated the Uwharrie Players’ first awards banquet. This ceremony recognized the achievements of the Players’ past season and included humorous awards, acting awards, and the selection of the season’s favorite show. The awards banquet was so successful that it has become an annual event for the Uwharrie Players. Each winter, usually around the end of January or the first of February, the Players celebrate their past season with an evening of food, fun, and awards.

    The Uwharrie Players suffered two great personal losses in 1989. Sam Holshouser was killed in an accident at the newly opened Agri-Civic Center in July of that year, and Joan Giglio succumbed to cancer in September. Both had been true leaders of the Players since the early years of the organization. Holshouser had performed on stage, served as board chairperson and as president, and had built many of the sets for plays. Giglio also performed on stage, served as secretary, treasurer, and board chairperson, and was known as the ultimate hostess for parties and banquets. Two annual awards are now given at the U.P. awards ceremony in honor of these individuals. The Holshouser Award goes to the person making the greatest back-stage contributions to the past season’s productions. The Giglio Award goes to the past year’s most outstanding board member.

    In 1992, primarily through the efforts of Vicki Coggins, the Uwharrie Players obtained official tax-exempt status as a 501-c(3) non-profit organization with the I.R.S. This status has greatly assisted the Players in their annual fund raising efforts.

    The Uwharrie Players celebrated their twentieth anniversary season in 1994/95. Edna Lipe-Harkey headed up the committee that organized the activities for that special year. Some of the anniversary festivities included: encore presentations of some of the Players’ most popular shows (THE FOREIGNER, OKLAHOMA, and DRACULA THE MUSICAL); a display in the Agri-Civic Center lobby that featured costumes and memorabilia from past shows; a reception for the original cast members of the 1975 production of OKLAHOMA; a special supplement in the Stanly News and Press that covered the Players’ anniversary; and the establishment of a Uwharrie Players Hall of Fame.

    The Uwharrie Players Hall of Fame was established to recognize and honor individuals who had contributed outstanding time and effort to the Players over a long period. Each year, a special committee comes up with a list of nominees to be considered for election to the Hall of Fame. To be elected to the Hall, a person must receive 75% of the votes cast by the organization’s membership and contributors. To date, eleven people have been elected to the Uwharrie Players Hall of fame. These are Sam Holshouser (1995), Reed Furr (1996), Joan Giglio (1997), Leon Warren (1999), Patti Furr (2000), Martha Chapman (2003), Edna Lipe-Harkey (2005), Kent Harkey (2007), Joe Giglio (2010), Harriet Brooks (2010), and Michael Furr (2011).

    In the fall of 2003, the Uwharrie Players decided to develop a website for listing the organization on the Internet. A committee chaired by Tim Shires and consisting of members Brian Jones, James Cotton, Sid Norvell, Reed Furr, Marty Medlin, and Joanna Flack were responsible for organizing and building this website. Brian Jones presently serves as Web Master for the Players site, which can be found at www.uwharrieplayers.org .

    In December of 2004, the Uwharrie Players presented their first "radio show". This event was organized and directed by Rod Almond. With actors reading from scripts before a live, dinner-theater audience, the Players presented the holiday classic, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The entire show was taped and repeated several times over a local radio station. This event was so successful that the Uwharrie Players decided to make it an annual event.

    In 2005, the Uwharrie Players celebrated their 30th anniversary. As a part of this celebration, the Players recognized past shows at the annual awards dinner, repeated the popular show, SOUTH PACIFIC, put together a display of memorabilia at the Agri-Civic Center, and were featured in a special article in the Stanly News and Press.

    In 2007, the Uwharrie Players joined the Metrolina Theatre Association www.metrolinatheatre.org in order to increase theatrical contacts throughout the greater Charlotte area, and to increase the talent pool for potential directors and actors.   

    In May of 2007, the Uwharrie Players participated in the City of Albemarle's 150th Birthday Celebration by presenting a special musical review show at Albemarle High School.  The show was titled: "Musical Memories - Three Decades of Uwharrie Players Entertainment." This review was an outstanding success and greatly appreciated by the organizers of Albemarle's Birthday Celebration.

    IN 2008, to align itself better with the M.T.A. and try to encourage more membership by starting the season with the large summer musical, the UP Board voted to change the Players' season from a regular calendar year to a May to April season.  This change went into effect over 2009 and 2010.  However, after only one year, the Players ran into complications with this new season format (primarily for financial reporting reasons), and voted to change back to the old standard calendar year season format.  The change back to a calendar year season took place during 2011.

    In 2009, a UP Archives Committee was created by the UP Board and chaired by Natasha Wall.  The purposes of this committee was to organize and preserve memorabilia from the Players' past; to display this memorabilia in a prominent place; and to organize a lending library that held video's and scripts of past Players productions as well as a system for checking out these items. 

    In 2010, the Hearne family offered the Uwharrie Players the free use of the old McCain Clubhouse on East Main Street in downtown Albemarle.  This facility gave the Players a "home" for meetings, rehearsals, and records storage, as well as a place to display the memorabilia collected and organized by the new Archives Committee.  The Archives Committee's lending library was also located in this facility. 

   In April of 2010, the Players celebrated their 35th anniversary by holding a special "35 Years of Magic" awards banquet.  This banquet was coordinated by Kelly Almond and featured presentations on the Uwharrie Players' sixteen most magical shows, as determined by Players' veteran, Reed Furr.  These shows were revealed throughout the evening in short video segments written and narrated by Reed Furr and produced by James Cotton.  This special anniversary banquet also featured the return of several people who had performed in these "most magical" shows throughout the Uwharrie Players' 35 year history.  The evening was deemed a smash hit.

APPENDIX

 

    The following plays have been presented by the Uwharrie Players 1975-2011:

1975 – OKLAHOMA, LI’L ABNER; 1976 – YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, THE SOUND OF MUSIC; 1977 – BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, THE GLASS MENAGERIE; 1978 – SOUTH PACIFIC; 1979 – GODSPELL, GYPSY, PLAZA SUITE; 1980 – GODSPELL, CAROUSEL, THE FANTASTICKS; 1981 – THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, GUYS AND DOLLS, WAIT UNTIL DARK; 1982 – DON"T DRINK THE WATER, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN; 1983 – BUS STOP, ONCE UPON A MATRESS, YOU"RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, 1984 – I REMEMBER MAMA, HELLO DOLLY, DRACULA THE MUSICAL; 1985 – THE MOUSETRAP, GODSPELL; 1986 – THE ODD COUPLE, BYE BYE BIRDIE; 1987 – SNOOPY, ANNIE, CACTUS FLOWER; 1988 – THE FOREIGNER, OLIVER, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS; 1989 – THE NERD, BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, COTTON PATCH GOSPELS; 1990 – OUR TOWN, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, DAMES AT SEA; 1991- ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, ANYTHING GOES, PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES; 1992 – LEND ME A TENOR, THE MUSIC MAN, THE MIRACLE WORKER; 1993 – THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, INTO THE WOODS, BABY; 1994 – THE FOREIGNER, OKLAHOMA, DRACULA THE MUSICAL; 1995 – DRIVING MISS DAISY, MY FAIR LADY, NUNSENSE; 1996 – THE WIDOW’S BEST FRIEND, DAMN YANKEES, BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER; 1997 –STEEL MAGNOLIAS, GUYS AND DOLLS, DEATHTRAP; 1998 – HARVEY, GREASE, SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN; 1999 – GRANDEST CANYON, LI’L ABNER, CRIMES OF THE HEART; 2000 – CATFISH MOON, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, A SANDERS FAMILY CHRISTMAS; 2001 – GODSPELL, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, GREATER TUNA; 2002 –LOVE LETTERS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, COTTON PATCH GOSPEL; 2003 – THE RAINMAKER, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK; 2004 – ON GOLDEN POND, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, and RAMONA QUIMBY; 2005 - NUNSENSE II, SOUTH PACIFIC, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST; 2006 - CROSSROADS, THE KING AND I, and BLESSED ASSURANCE; 2007 - THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, DISNEYS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING; 2008 - TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, CHILDREN OF EDEN, SMOKE ON THE MOUNTIAN HOMCOMING; 2009 - OF MICE AND MEN, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, SWEENY TODD  2010 - STEEL MAGNOLIAS, ANNIE, and SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN; 2011 - DON'T CRY FOR ME, MARGARET MITCHELL, DEARLY DEPARTED, ALL SHOOK UP, A HIGH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS; 2012 - THE FANTASTICS, CAMELOT, 12 ANGRY MEN; 2013 - THE DIXIE SWIM CLUB, BIG RIVER, THE CODGERELLA.

The following people have served as president of the Uwharrie Players:

 1975 – Curt Little and Ken Campbell; 1976 – Ken Campbell; 1977 – Steve Whitley; 1978 and 1979 –Robert Kennedy; 1980 – Reed Furr; 1981 and 1982 – Kathey Teague McCollister; 1983 - Walter Hill; 1984 – Jay McCollister; 1985 – Martha Chapman and Gary Moran; 1986 – Martha Chapman; 1987 – Todd Furr; 1988 – Sam Holshouser; 1989 – Darwin Compton; 1990 – Mary Coyle; 1991 – Kathey Teague McCollister; 1992 – Rick McCollister; 1993 - Reed Furr; 1994 – Brian Jones; 1995 – Judy Ingram; 1996 – Edna Lipe-Harkey; 1997 – Kelly Story; 1998 – Michael Furr; 1999 - Kent Harkey; 2000 – Colleen Jones; 2001 – Susie Johnson; 2002 and 2003 – Martha Chapman; 2004 – Darlene Stibal; 2005 – Tim Shires; 2006 - Tom Horner, 2007 - Colleen Jones, 2008 - Don Burris, Tim Harris; 2009 - Lena Olson, 2010 - Kelly Almond; 2011 - Betsy Furr; 2012 - Charlotte Maness; 2013 - Marty Medlin.

The following people have served as board chairperson for the Uwharrie Players:

1977 – Bob Compton; 1978 – Joe Giglio; 1979 and 1980 – Sam Holshouser; 1981 – Marie Smith; 1982 – Bill Dobbs; 1983 – Dave Nagey; 1984 – Patti Furr; 1985 and 1986 – Rick McCollister; 1987 and 1988 – Kent Harkey; 1989 – Joan Giglio; 1990 – Vicki Coggins; 1991 and 1992 – Darwin Compton; 1993 – Colleen Jones; 1994 – Reed Furr; 1995 – Kent Harkey; 1996 and 1997 – Bob Baker; 1998 and 1999 – Darlene Stibal;  2000 and 2001 – Charlotte Maness; 2002 – Greg McCollister; 2003 – Pradeep Pilakel; 2004 and 2005 – Kelly Story; 2006 - Edna Lipe-Harkey, 2007 & 2008 - Lena Olson & Tim Harris; 2009 - Tim Harris;  2010 - Lena Olson, 2011 - Gilbert Umberger; 2012 - Rod Almond  ; 2013 - Jeff Hamilton.

    The following people have directed plays for the Uwharrie Players: Gail Roger; Tom Hollis; Monte Burleson; Jim Kennedy; Jim Wood; Betsy Patterson; Terry Wood; Curt Little; Tommy Aldridge; Ann Salancy; Kit Jenkins; Dennis Gouge; Rick McCollister; Jim Veenstra; Fred Corlett; Mike Lucas; Gerald Honaker; Karl Hale; Joe Giglio; Martha Chapman; Daintry Reece; John Goodnow; Trish Bellah; Michael Disher; George Bellah; Craig Spradley; Frank Dominguez; Tony Medlin; Larry Thomas; Kelly Story; Nancy Duke; Della Freedman; Ginger Heath; Susie Johnson; Doug Dodson; John Stafford; Phil Taylor; Buddy Osborne; Clay Gaithskill; Doug Stauter; James Cotton; Martin Thompson; Blair Johnson; George Gray; Tracey Davies; Lena Olson; Rod Almond; Craig Kolkebeck; Jack Stevenson; Hal Houston; Christy Hinkleman; Caroline Firczak; Heather Wilson; .