The year 1972 brings a number of events to mind: the start of the Watergate Scandal; nearing the end of the Vietnam War; Bobby Fischer defeating Boris Spassky in a chess match in Reykjavík, Iceland, becoming the first American chess champion; Bob Barker hosting the first episode of The Price Is Right. While the nation was focused on these larger events, the small town of Saline, Michigan was marking the birth of a new community theater group, the Saline Area Players, with their debut performance, Was This Murder?.
While the Watergate scandal escalated and then ended, the Vietnam War came to a close, and Bob Barker and The Price Is Right went on to become national treasures, the Saline Area Players continued to grow, entertaining Salinians with comedies, dramas, and musicals every year. The cast and crew varied, the members got older, but the goal was always the same: to put on a great show.
Before staging their first musical, Oklahoma!, in 1973, the Players performed two more plays: Love Is Contagious and Barefoot In the Park. They have continued performing both straight plays and musicals for forty-five years, a feat that was celebrated this past June with a 45th Anniversary Gala, held at Mac’s in Saline, and a retrospective featuring special performances from some of those previous shows.
Many of the shows over the years will be familiar to both frequent theatergoers and those who might not attend as often: South Pacific (1975), Fiddler on the Roof (1977, 1985), The Sound of Music (1979), The Diary of Anne Frank (1981), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1982), Count Dracula (1986), Father of the Bride (1993), Unsinkable Molly Brown (1998), Annie (1992, 2003), Wizard of Oz (2006), The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches (2012, 2016) and many, many more. (Click here for the full list -> link)
The Saline Area Players has also given lesser-known plays a chance to be staged, as with Warren’s Peace in 2016. Local playwright Marc Holland and his wife, Kathy, wrote the play about a small town in Michigan whose “Peace on Earth Day” celebrations are nothing but peaceful. The characters’ conflicts were entirely relatable to fellow small-town citizens, and made those in attendance laugh and nod in fellowship. The play was enhanced by a selection of Michigan-made food and drink selections offered before the show began during a “cocktail hour”-type setting.
The 2017-2018 season for the Saline Area Players will see both plays that are entirely new to the company and some that are old friends. The season kicks off with a brand-new show at the Rentschler Farm Museum’s Harvest Time event on October 1st. The play, The Adventures of Tom the Turtle was written by local brother and sister team Katherine Downie and Sean Cameron, and made its debut three years ago at Saline Summerfest. It will be performed on October 1st at 1:00 & 3:00pm, and tells the tales of a small turtle searching for big adventure. (Auditions are Sunday, September 10th from 5-7pm at Liberty School.)
The 45th season continues with an old favorite, Lionel Bart’s Oliver! Previously performed by SAP in 1980 and 1997, this performance has been put in the very capable hands of artistic director Rebecca Groeb and musical director Bob Cindric, with Sara Honsowetz, SAP President, producing. Rehearsals are already underway, and the show will be performed in the Ellen Ewing Auditorium at Saline High School October 20th-22nd.
For the last several years, SAP has been sure to put on a Christmas show, and this year is no exception - Kara Cardella will be directing Silent Night: The Real(ish) Story, last staged by SAP in 2013. Auditions will be October 8th from 2-4pm at 5th Corner in Saline, and the shows will be performed at 5th Corner November 30th and December 1st at 7:30pm, December 2nd at 1pm & 3pm, and December 3rd at 3pm.
The 45th season will round out in the spring of 2018 with a play that’s new to SAP: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard. A spoof on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the play is a comedy that focuses on two of the most minor characters in Shakespeare’s original, and the events that are happening when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not on stage in Hamlet. (Stay tuned for more details about auditions and performances.)
In honor of Saline Area Players’ 45th Season, the Players have set up a way to show your support of our community theater group by donating to a GoFundMe Campaign. (Click here to visit the page.) $45 is the suggested donation, though any amount is welcome! Donations cover theater essentials such as costumes, sets, and for a musical the size of Oliver!, to cover the cost of a pit orchestra.
You can become involved with Saline Area Players by volunteering to help with sets, props, costumes, publicity, tickets, etc, or become a member. SAP member benefits include the opportunity to vote (16 yrs+) for board members at the annual meeting, newsletters & special mailings, free admission to dress rehearsals, advance notice for auditions/productions, and more! More info can be found here (link).
For more information see Saline Area Players’ website at salineareaplayers.org.