Following the production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” by the staff, students and associates of Lisbon, New Hampshire Schools in 1978, a strong interest was expressed by many for Community Theater. An open to the public meeting was held on November 19, 1978 and the group now known as the Upstage Players was organized. Drawing on the talents and theater experience of this early group of teachers, students and community members, the Upstage Players began producing two shows annually- a stage play and a musical. (View our list of past productions here). A volunteer board of directors and officers was formed and bylaws for the organization were established. The Upstage Players registered as a non-profit organization in New Hampshire in 1981 and remains an entity in good standing today.
Early on the organization began attracting members from regional communities throughout the Ammonoosuc Valley, western White Mountains and northwestern border of Vermont, as well as from other community theater groups in the area. This collaboration expanded the creative capabilities available for all by sharing the interests and skills of anyone interested in the performing arts. From the early beginnings of 1978, under the leadership of president and director Hal Haywood and his wife Jean, many have shared their talents on stage and off as actors, stage directors, musical directors, accompanists, costumers, set design, technicians and much more... (see “Over the Years” About Us).
Over the years, the players have performed on the opera house stage of the Lisbon Town Hall, and often took productions on the road for occasions- especially during the ten years span of producing an annual version of Dickens “A Christmas Carol- the Musical”. In 2002, the Players performed “Way Down East” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Lisbon Town Hall. This was the first play presented on the Lisbon stage of its new Town Hall by a traveling theater group, and one of the most popular plays in the United States in 1902. Two years later UP produced the vintage Broadway show “Pollyanna- The Comedy Play” (adapted in 1916 from the story and cheery character created by Littleton-born author Eleanor Hodgman Porter) on the Littleton Opera House stage in conjunction with the 2004 annual Pollyanna Day celebration of the historic unveiling of the jubilant sculpture on the Library lawn in 2002. This production was an impetus to help move dormant plans for the restoration of the Opera House stage within the refurbishing of the Littleton Town Hall and its new functionality. Today, our organization is fortunate to have two vintage Opera House facilities available for performances- often a consideration in production selection.
In 1991, The Upstage Players became a non-profit 501-C(3) organization. This status refocused our organization, our mission and our structure. We have been able to attract new volunteers and establish more experienced production levels as we continue to develop and evolve as a Community Theater.
Many of our members have been represented by three generations of performers and production staff. Several have gone on to other careers and communities and expanded the skills learned early on. Some have continued their education in theater arts and enjoy successful careers. Others have retired from providing their skills, talent and support after 35 plus years of participation in our theater organization while continuing their support as members of our best audiences.
Our current board of directors and volunteer staff bring much history and experience to our renewed structure and mission. Others bring experience and a strong background in creative and theater arts education. All embrace our history and will continue to establish more opportunities and appreciation of Community Theater to create the future history and legacy of The Upstage Players.