Incorporated in 1923, the Rochester Community Players, Inc. (RCP) is one of the oldest continuously operated committee theater organizations in the United States. Its first production, Wedding Bells, opened January 19, 1925 at the German House, Gregory St., Rochester.
For its first fifty years, RCP was considered the premiere theater in Rochester. Perhaps RCP's strongest season was 1958-59, when RCP produced Guys and Dolls; Inherit the Wind; Visit to a Small Planet by Gore Vidal; Blithe Spirit featuring Foster Brooks; and As You Like It by William Shakespeare. 12 year old Mimi Kennedy appeared in The Spider Web, by Agatha Christie, in October 1960.
Through the summer of 2008 RCP has produced 623 full theatrical productions and has operated continuously for 83 seasons. RCP believes that we are the second oldest continuously operating community theater in the United States.
In 1926, RCP hired its own full-time professional director and manager, Robert Stevens of New York City. RCP believes it was the first community theater in the United States to hire a full time director. He was "engaged" for 3 weeks and stayed 28 years. Mr. Stevens operated RCP until his retirement in 1953, assisted for many years by Scene Designer Milton Robinson, who retired in 1951.
Mr. Stevens was succeeded by George Warren and Harriet "Hattie" Warren. For nearly twenty years, starting with the 1953-54 season, Mr. Warren acted as RCP's business manager and Mrs. Warren as the artistic director. They were assisted by Betsy Hall, who worked as Scenic Designer from 1953 to 1976. Mr. and Mrs. Warren, known simply as "the Warrens", came to Rochester in 1953 after 17 years of developing community theater in Jamestown, New York. George Warren passed away March 11, 1972 and Hattie Warren retired the next year. Various full-time and part-time managers operated the theater over the next twenty five years. RCP has been managed entirely by volunteers since 1998.
RCP's first nine productions were staged at the German House on Gregory Street (one was staged at Rochester's old Lyceum Theater, built in 1903). In 1926, RCP purchased the Playhouse, located at 820 South Clinton Avenue, at the corner of Meigs Street and Clinton Avenue South, in Rochester. The Playhouse was built as a church but had been used as a machine shop for the eight years prior to being purchased by RCP. The first RCP production at the Playhouse was Captain Applejack by Walter Hackett, opening November 1, 1926.
The Playhouse deteriorated over time and was temporarily abandoned as a performance space from 1976 to 1980. The Playhouse was permanently closed and sold in 1984. The last RCP production at the Playhouse was Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, which opened May 11, 1984. RCP staged approximately 500 productions at the Playhouse. RCP staged its productions at the Holiday Inn (now known as the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside on East Main Street) from 1985 to 1992. RCP has operated out of various venues since then.
In 1994, RCP established the Shakespeare Players, a free Shakespeare program. Since 1997, RCP's Shakespeare Players have performed an annual free Shakespeare in the Park production in early July at the Highland Park Bowl, 1200 South Avenue, Rochester. The Shakespeare at the Bowl productions are co-sponsored by the Monroe County Parks Department.
In 1997 RCP established The Irish Players of Rochester as a program that produces Irish theater. The Irish Players are a member of the Acting Irish International Theater Festival (AIITF). In May 2008, RCP hosted the 15th Annual AIITF at NextStage at Geva Theatre Center.