Travelers up and down Jefferson Avenue have probably noticed the Players’ Club just west of the Belle Isle Bridge. Completed in 1924 this is the home of the Detroit Players.
Founded in 1910 and incorporated in 1911 by a group of prominent Detroit businessmen, the Players Club of Detroit is a non-profit [501(c)(3)] gentlemen’s club whose official purpose is to encourage amateur theater. On the first Saturday of the Season (October to April), Player members perform three one-act plays at what is called a “Frolic.” In the Shakespearean tradition, all roles on stage are played by gentlemen. Player members also do the costuming, directing, producing, set construction, makeup and other technical jobs, including those involving lights and sound.
Like so many older and traditional clubs and times being what they are membership standards have been relaxed considerably . In December 2013 I was officially admitted as a Player.
The building is pretty grand.
Designed by Player member and architect William Kapp, the Historic Players’ Playhouse was constructed of what were, in 1925, revolutionary materials, i.e., cinder blocks. Look closely; that’s what they are! The building includes an upstairs formal meeting room with fireplace, a small commercial kitchen, a professional four-story high stage, dressing rooms, a back-of-the-house, state-of-the-art tech booth from which all lighting and sound may be controlled, and an assortment of basement storage and prop rooms. The Playhouse is both a Federal and State of Michigan designated historic site.
Inside the walls are covered with over one hundred years of caricatures of the plays that have been staged there. Actors from the 20s and the 30s include names that are now on prominent Detroit buildings and streets. (I don’t know much about John Lodge – but he was a Player)
At Player events the strictly enforced dress code is black tie.
I’ve dabbled in theater from time to time since my portrayal of the Artful Dodger in my High School Musical. Several years ago my friend, actor and educator Jeff Luttermoser challenged me to actually take an acting class. I spent a summer studying with Rich Goteri at his Michigan Actor’s Studio. You saw Rich in last year’s “Low Winter Sun” and number of other television roles.
Guess what? Acting is hard!
Three weeks ago my Player sponsor Todd Mister called and offered me my first on stage role as a Player. They were doing an episode from the television sitcom Gilligan’s Island and needed someone to play Mary Anne. Oh my, a female role! The Club does operate in the Shakespearean tradition of gentlemen playing all roles. Why not?
Saturday night I joined the six other castaways coping with a Japanese sailor that captured their desert island. He didn’t know World War II was over. I had 10 lines and 8 of them were questions like; “What’s going on, Professor?” Serious acting? No. But a good time was had by all.