The arena

Riverside Community Players, Inc.

4026 Fourteenth Street
Riverside, California 92501-4003
Tel:  (951) 369-1200
Fax: (951) 369-1261
Email address:  rcporg@earthlink.net

Officers 

  • President: Kathryn Gage
  • Vice President: Rory Dyer
  • Secretary: Cindy Valadez
  • Business Manager: John Brinkman

Board Members

  • Kathry Gage - Administration
  • Laura Ritchie - Publicity
  • Dona Sisk - Theatre Operations
  • Rory Dyer - Special Programs
  • Suzi Lefebvre - Financial
  • Michael Charles - Production
  • Patricia Scarborough - Activities & Awarads
  • Michelle Grotness - Membership
  • Phil Holmer - Artistic Development & Personnel
  • Webmaster - Rick Sisk

 

Riverside Community Players.

Mission Statement: To create and perpetuate, through community involvement and expression, high quality theatre accessible to Riverside and surrounding communities while providing opportunities for education and fellowship.

History: 

The story begins in 1925 when Janet Scott gathered together a handful of eager amateurs to produce plays under the Drama Department of the Riverside Woman’s Club.  There was such interest shown by actors and audience alike during this first season that their own identity, separate from the Riverside Woman’s Club, was desired.  They left the Riverside Woman’s Club and in September of 1926 twenty-seven charter members, let by Janet Scott and James Coleman Scott, met to elect officers and officially launched the Community Players.

The first productions as an independent organization were presented at the Loring Building, also known as the Loring Opera House.  After two seasons, when, in 1928, the Loring became the Golden State (movie) Theatre, the Players moved to Central Junior High School.  Resolved to finally have a home of their own, fundraising events were held.  With the generosity of friends and neighbors, over four thousand dollars was contributed to purchase the old, unoccupied Washington School Building.  Remodeling work was carried on nightly and on weekends and in May, 1930 the Players production of The Queen’s Husband opened in their new home.      

These were the days of the “Great Depression”.  An audience was hard to find and even the Players faltered on occasion, but the doors were never closed and plays continued to be produced.  Janet Scott, the driving force, returned to her career in radio and left the Inland Empire.  It was now up to those she had mentored to continue on.

The 1937-38 Season found the Players affiliated with the Adult Education Program of Riverside Junior College.  An association that would continue until the years of World War II.  With the start of the war different troubles began, posing new struggles to overcome.  Young male actors were hard to find and subject to a call to service at any time – including in the middle of rehearsals.  Gasoline rationing curtailed attendance.  But the Players persevered, finding male actors at March Field and providing transportation to and from rehearsals..

With peace came prosperity.  Productions often played to more than two thousand people.  Then came a new problem..The Board of Education decided the land on which the playhouse stood was needed for a new Administration Building and parking spaces.  It was 1950 and once again the Players were in need of a home.

The Director of Recreation for the City of Riverside had instigated construction of the Playbox Theater in the Recreation Building  (formerly Riverside Girl’s High School) at Ninth & Lime.  This space provided the needed home for two seasons before it, too, was torn down for a parking lot!

Following this came a season on the stage at the Riverside City College auditorium.  During this season a committee of members and business men studied plans for a new theatre.  The arena theatre was becoming increasingly popular and seemed an ideal solution to the Players building needs.  Riverside’s then mayor, Ben Lewis, was the Players president during the building year. Architect Herman Ruhnau designed the building and the firm of Paul Rooth and Tom Carr did the construction work.  These men and many subcontractors gave of their time and knowledge without profit, making possible its completion in September, 1953 at a cost of $17,500.   Several additions have been made to the theatre since that time – including the Green Room, dressing room, prop and work room and the landscaping and patio, which was completed in 1967.                                       

While a very nice resolution, indeed, the quest for a permanent home was not over yet.  The theatre building belonged to Riverside Community Players, but the land itself was leased from the City at the cost of one dollar per year.  However, over the years, and after an assortment of land swaps, the land came to be owned by Riverside Community Hospital and in 1989, Riverside Community Players was notified that when the forty year lease was up in 1993 it would not be renewed.

The ensuing few years were filled with a lot of hard work, a few false starts and a lot of anxiety.  A substantial amount of money was raised, but not nearly enough to purchase and renovate a building and provide parking.  Finally, a few dedicated and determined people came to the rescue and Riverside Community Hospital was persuaded to sell the land on which the theatre sat to Riverside Community Players.  So, in October of 1995, 70 years after the group was created,

Riverside Community Players had a permanent home.  Who says perseverance doesn't pay!  Having been able to pay cash for the property due to the generosity of its may loyal patrons and members, Riverside Community Players remains debt free and continues to provide quality entertainment every season.

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