History  

Peoria Players originated on October 6, 1919, with a one-act play by Oliphant Down entitled The Maker of Dreams and has been in continuous operation since.  This feat was accomplished in spite of many obstacles – a depression, a freeway, and financial difficulties.  The first ten years of Peoria Players saw a total of 114 plays produced, many of them one-act plays.  Twelve of those plays were written by Peorians including the production of an original play called the Acid Test in the 1920s.  The growth in interest and support of Peoria Players was little short of phenomenal.  At the end of the first decade, membership had increased from 35 to 600 members.  But Peoria Players had no permanent home.  Often the first few years, the Peoria Players rented the Majestic Theatre to stage plays.  By the 1924-25 season most of Peoria Players performances were produced in the Musical Hall of the Peoria’s Women’s Club. 

 Due to concerns for lack of space in the facility, the newly-formed building committee approached the City Council in hopes of purchasing the abandoned firehouse on Jackson Street.  After a long debate by the Council, Peoria Players acquired the firehouse and in 1933 opened with its first production Berkley Square

As the Depression deepened during these crucial formative years, Players opted to produce more “commercially popular” plays.  Although some purists may have felt that Players was compromising its artistic integrity by doing so, for a theatre group to exist at all in the middle of a severe depression was nothing less than a miracle.

 

The 50s had another potential disaster in store for Peoria Players.  This time it was the construction of Interstate-74 and a bridge which would pass right through the back portion of the firehouse taking Players’ stagehouse and workshop with it.  It was time to find a new home again.  During our search for new property, Players took its 1956-57 season on the road.  Thus, Peoria Players was never “dark”.  Soon excavations were underway at the Lakeview Park facility, our current home.  On November 30, 1957 Peoria Players opened with Tea House of the August Moon in its new community auditorium designed by Les Kenyon.   

Today, Peoria Players Theatre produces six mainstage shows per season, September through May, 4 musicals, a drama, and a comedy.  Other special events include our Summer Youth Theatre in August.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show in October, the Peoria Pops Orchestra concert and King Henry’s Christmas Feaste in December, and Showstoppers, a musical review every June.  Peoria Players tries to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, not only for our customers, but also for our 250 company members.  The mission of the theatre is a) the promotion and presentation of live theatrical productions, b) the study of the art of the theatre, and c) the encouragement of original dramatic works amongst its members. 

Peoria Players Theatre is the nation’s 4th oldest continuously-running community theater, and the oldest in the State of Illinois.  It is our continuing goal to provide culturally inclusive live theatrical entertainment to our area, as well as give the many talented individuals in the area a creative outlet and opportunity to perform and grow in a safe, artistically challenging environment.