The Ocean Pines Players celebrated its 40th anniversary this year! We are an all-volunteer locally run non-profit group serving the local community of the Eastern Shore.
OPP was started in 1974 by a college art professor, Jim Striby, who taught high school English, and Glenn Fickel, a dramatics teacher. They had both retired to Ocean Pines and they saw that there were plenty of people in the area with a love of live theater. They also believed that there was an untapped well of talent in the area and they wanted to provide an outlet for creative people who wanted to support the performing arts, as performers, directors, set designers, costumers, and technical crew. One great thing about the theater is that whatever talents and interests you have, there is a way to use them!
For its first few decades, OPP was fortunate to have a home venue. As one of the first clubs in Ocean Pines, we staked a claim on the theater/multipurpose room at the Community Center, where we were able to stage elaborate productions. We even had space in the building to build and store scenery and props. During those years, the Players thrived and our audiences grew dramatically. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and when Ocean Pines built the new Community Center, the decision was made not to include theater space -- and the Players found ourselves "homeless."
Times were tough for a while, as the Players struggled to find ways to produce shows. As the shows dried up, so did our membership. For a while, the difficulties seemed insurmountable, but we are "the little theater that could"! Over the last few years, the Board of Directors experimented with new approaches and new venues. We really felt that we were onto something in late 2011 when then-President Charlie Sorrentino hit on the idea of "Bistro Theater" -- table seating and light meals served at the cozy and intimate upstairs dining room of the Ocean Pines Country Club while guests watched the Players perform on a portable stage. People loved the concept and demand for more shows grew. If we had more members, we could easily have put on four or five shows a year.
Alas, when the Yacht Club was torn down in 2013, they took over control of the Country Club during the reconstruction process and OPP was again without a home. But we were saved once more by St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Ocean City. St. Peter's offered to let us hold a holiday variety show in their Life Center in exchange for a donation. Both sides were a little leery -- after all, they didn't know us at all and we were concerned that the room is far from ideal for theater and we worried that our previously loyal audience would not want to come "all the way" to Ocean City for an experience that was hardly cozy and intimate. Still, we tried it. And some people came. And they seemed to like it. And the church seemed happy with us.
Hopeful, we decided to try a real play at St. Peter's in May 2014 and it was a smash hit! Each night we had bigger crowds and they could not have been more complimentary. We were able to provide a generous gift to the church, along with our profound gratitude for their hospitality. And now we are rehearsing for a Christmas show! St. Peter's might be "all the way" in Ocean City (10 minutes from Ocean Pines) and the room may be a big concrete box with unfortunate acoustics and the stage may be tiny and constraining -- but it is our new home base and we are extraordinarily grateful to everyone who has helped us make the transition.
We have ambitious plans for the next few years. We want to grow our membership and volunteer base. Human resources are our main limitation right now. Even with holes in our pockets, there is so much we can do -- so many experiences we can provide to our community -- IF we have the horsepower to do it. Come, be a part of our future and let us be a part of yours. Together, we can put smiles on faces for years to come!