||A Brief History of the Coloma Players:
Thirty years ago ( Feb. 1977), a group of actors stepped on-stage for the first time at the Coloma Grade School to present LIFE WITH FATHER. Sponsored by the Coloma PTO, this was the first production of the Coloma Players. The group headed by Bonnie Shriver had decided that rehearsing and staging a play would help to relieve the boredom of the long winter. The production proved successful, and the group decided to do another play the following year.
With their second production, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, in the spring of 1978, The Coloma Players struck out on their own as a theater group. They presented one play a year and sponsored several children’s productions. The plays were performed at the Coloma Grade School.
When the tiny Coloma stage proved to be inadequate, the group looked for new places to play. They found many temporary homes including the bowling alley at Sunset Point Resort, Westfield High School, The Radio Station restaurant, the McComb Bruchs Performing Arts Center, and the Anna Follett Community Center. Many of the older players have fond memories of changing costumes behind the pin setters at Sunset Point or the luxury of having actual dressing rooms at the PAC in Wautoma.
Several times the group took the show on the road, so to speak, performing at the Federal Correctional Institution at Oxford, and doing a summer show at Nordic Mountain in Mount Morris. Summer shows were done at Sunset Point Resort and area campgrounds as well. Outdoor performances proved exciting; being at the mercy of the weather and having bats flying overhead being just a couple of the challenges.
After becoming an official nonprofit corporation, the Coloma Players set up a scholarship program which offers money to area graduating seniors who plan to major in one of the performing arts -- theater, music ( vocal or instrumental), or dance. Through the years, over $10,000 has been awarded. Currently, four $400 scholarships are available to students from Wautoma, Westfield, Tri County, Wild Rose, and Montello.
Through the years comedy and mysteries with a comedic flavor have been the preferred type of plays chosen for production. Finding plays that are suitable for a very small community theater is hard, and the play reading committee reads many scripts each year. Sometimes the chosen play presents staging challenges; how do we put an outhouse on-stage? Can we have flats falling over without hurting anyone? Is our stage tall enough to have a trap door? The set designers have always come through with ingenious solutions to those and other little problems like how to fit five doors and a stairway on one little stage.
As an orphan group with no permanent home, the players have had the added challenge of where to store their props, costumes, and staging. Members have generously offered storage space over the years, but this means that equipment is scattered around the countryside. Driving down the road with a load of staging and hoping that nothing flies off and shatters is a normal part of setting up for a play.
The production of original plays is a new phase in the development of The Coloma Players. Not many small community theaters are given this opportunity. The first two plays written by Lauretta Kaplan, IT’S THE PLUMBER and WILL’S WILL, were well received, as was RASPUTIN ON THE RITZ, a comedy in two acts by Becky Schumacher which was performed this spring. We hope to see more new scripts coming our way in the future. It's a great feeling to be the first group to present a play.
Another new step for The Coloma Players is the formation of an improv group. Improv has given the players a chance to stretch their comedic muscles by requiring them to think on their feet. It's fast and fun and encourages audience participation.
As for the future; the group is always willing to explore new possibilities. Who knows?