Merely Players was officially founded in August 1991. It was the brainchild of a group of students taking an Adult Education class, called Acting for Everyone, in the fall of 1990. The instructor of that class, Nan Howard, and about six of her students spent a good deal of time discussing the need for a theater group in the mid-county region, which would be unique in demonstrating its respect for its participants. Children and adults would perform on stage together in rarely seen shows to be staged in creative (perhaps unconventional) ways, and the scripts we chose would be educational, but not “didactic.” Merely Players’ mission today is much the same (only written in plainer language).
Nan Howard suggested the name, Merely Players. It comes from Shakespeare’s famous line, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Leslie Everitt, one of the founding members still on the board today, remembers the beginning vividly:
“I recall saying, ‘We could create such a group!’ and once we saw it fully formed in our minds, we were eager to make it a reality. We, seven, paid to be the first members and “Voilá!,” with $35 to its name, Merely Players was born. That year, we raised funds by offering drama workshops and by winning a Founding Grant from the Anne Arundel County Cultural Arts Foundation. We also incorporated and, later, applied for and were approved as a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation. In the fall of ’91 we put on our first musical production, The Velveteen Rabbit, to great acclaim from audiences, family, and friends.”
It was a propitious beginning.
Now more than 11 years and 15 productions later, Merely Players (MP) has earned a reputation for excellence in several areas. Namely:
· MP has stayed “in-the-black,” financially, every year;
· MP has continued to win support in the form of grants from the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County and from the Maryland State Arts Council;
· MP has given many performers and crew members their first-ever opportunity to participate in a theater production;
· MP is known for fostering friendships, building confidence, and treating auditioners and participants with respect and caring;
· MP chooses high quality scripts (some related to language arts school curricula) as part of its mission;
· MP produces impressive community theater productions, while valuing the learning process equally with the final product;
· MP expanded theater opportunities for mid, and north Anne Arundel County neighborhoods by performing at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, Maryland;
· MP was, for many years, in performance at the Chesapeake Arts Center;
· MP performs education services by offering summer drama camps to teach basic auditioning and theater skills for beginning and intermediate level students;
· And lastly, but most importantly, MP is a community-building organization whose members have fun, express themselves creatively, appreciate various theater arts (such as excellent scripts, lyrics, choreography, design, construction, etc.), who grow and contribute to the community, and who build connections and friendships with other theater arts enthusiasts.
We now have one decade of success to our credit. We have started our second decade with the hope that we will continue offering opportunities and maintaining our reputation for excellence over decades to come!