History of Northumberland Players
Northumberland Players began with an initial meeting at an old farmhouse in late summer of 1976. Several fledgling and veteran actors, directors, and producers were primarily interested in providing as many opportunities as possible for the community at large to enjoy theatre. Numerous gatherings followed at various homes in the surrounding area to plant the seeds for the subsequent birth of the Northumberland Players.
Next came the questions: What plays would be chosen? Where would the chosen plays be produced? Where would the money come from? Where would sets be constructed? Since the Players were homeless and penniless, such challenges seemed insurmountable, but this group of budding thespians, et al., was undaunted. As a result, each founding member contributed $20.00 to start building sets in basements. With a borrowed truck, the first sets were transported to Cobourg Collegiate West. The inaugural comedy, Don’t Drink the Water, in October 1976, was an immediate hit and even went “on tour” to Brighton High School . . . and to think the initial budget was $400.
Northumberland Players – a Not-for-Profit Community Theatre
On October 31, 1977, Northumberland Players were incorporated as a not-for-profit theatre. By early 1978, five more productions ensued, thanks to local fundraising by ardent volunteers and sponsors, as well as a generous grant from the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. In 1981, the Concert Band of Cobourg joined ranks with the Players and continued to accompany NP’s annual musicals with its phenomenal pit band. In addition, by 1983, the Youth Theatre had become part of the roster during its eighth season. After a touring troupe of young professionals performed in Cobourg, the NP Board of Directors was inspired to establish a local and viable youth theatre that has never looked back.
The Northumberland Players had, up to 1986, presented fifty-one comedies, dramas, and musicals enjoyed by audiences throughout the county and beyond. Meanwhile, enthusiastic amateur and experienced members were continuing to come out for set, costume, and make-up, design, stage managing, and publicity seminars, as well as acting, producing, and directing workshops. Such participation led to exploring and implementing innovative ideas and new ventures.
However, by 1985, Northumberland Players was still homeless. They had been successful in accessing rehearsal and production venues in places like the Cobourg Armouries, the Cobourg Legion Hall, the Cobourg Motor Inn, Northam Restaurant, the Town Hall Court House, Cobourg Collegiates East and West, as well as local churches, to name a few. Furthermore, thanks to a few town grants, Northumberland Players acquired the Henley Arcade at a dollar per year rental. The Arcade was renovated by the Players to house costumes, sewing and fitting space, plus storage for make-up, props and wigs. Today, the Town of Cobourg, Victoria Hall, and Cobourg’s Best Western remain integral partners of the Players, along with the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope.
The Second Street Firehall – Home to Northumberland Players Since 1985
In 1985, the Northumberland Players struck gold when the Town of Cobourg granted the group a twenty-year lease at two dollars per annum for the use of the historic Second Street Firehall, a heritage building protected by Ontario Heritage Trust. The principal user of this facility would be the Players.
The Firehall interior was renovated to fulfill the dream of the members of the Northumberland Players. Ministry grants, private business sponsorships, private donations, and local fundraising events involving the dedication of many volunteers made this possible. The “black box” theatre can seat up to 55 patrons in comfort, in a variety of configurations. The flexibility of the seating allows for simple black-curtain sets such as that for Agnes of God or elaborate realistic sets such as The Glass Menagerie. Three floors allow ample space for rehearsals and for theatre camps in the off season. In 2015, the Second Street doorway was improved to provide a theatre entrance. The Town of Cobourg continues to maintain the exterior of the building and the fundamental structure of the Firehall with plans for improvements in 2017. For 30 years, tireless volunteers who support the Players and contribute their skills and time for the love of the theatre maintain the interior of the building, now suited to the operation of a community theatre.
Award Winning Community Theatre
From entries in the Eastern Ontario Drama League, to performances at Harbourfront in Toronto, to the establishment of the dynamic Youth Theatre, the Northumberland Players have succeeded for forty years in providing second-to-none community theatre and entertainment. Over two hundred and fifty musical and dramatic productions have been presented at the Firehall Theatre, Victoria Hall Concert Hall, the Capital Theatre in Port Hope, and the Best Western Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre among other venues. Each has contributed to the excellence of the performing arts in Northumberland. This past season, Boeing Boeing won best production at both the Eastern Ontario Drama League festival and the Theatre Ontario Festival. May the Northumberland Players continue to make everyone proud to be part of such a creative cultural institution.