Students and Alumni Gather to Celebrate 50 Years of Staples Players

Photo by Kerry Long

Photo by Kerry Long

Photo by Kerry Long
Photo by Kerry Long

Constance Chien
Features Editor 

Only one phrase can most clearly describe the Staples Players 50th Anniversary Revue celebration: over the top.

Indeed, how could it not be? With the inclusion of the highlights of some fourteen of the best shows Staples Players has performed in its 50-year history, the experience was unparalleled in energy, rapidity, and unbridled celebratory cheer. The entire production went by, and I did not look at a watch once, even during intermission. Throughout the performance, succumbing to the catchiness of the songs and the sense of community that the production created, I could not control my toe-tapping and loud, frequent clapping.

Photo by Kerry Long
Photo by Kerry Long

The production began with an overture of some sorts, accompanied by a three-piece band, two of whom were former Staples students.

After being introduced by Staples alumni Megan Watt ’07 and Britt Hennemuth ’07, who served as the welcomers in the production, performers dressed in black created a pyramid and waved fluorescent blue, illuminated gloved hands in a hypnotic pattern, creating an abstract tension before an explosion of activity and singing.

And then the production transitioned into a set-up of the very catchy song “Oklahoma!” from the musical of the same name, everyone dressed in appropriate Oklahoman attire and enthusiastically proclaiming the merits of the state. The piece was extremely well done and highly enjoyed.

But perhaps the part of the production I enjoyed most was a recreation of a climactic scene in “War and Pieces,” a production that was originally created at Staples in 1968 in protest against the Vietnam War, to wide acclaim. Performers dressed in black stood in lines in the aisles, right next to members of the audience, loudly proclaiming rhyming words in a rhythmic fashion and hissing, before going up on the stage and speaking and singing of hate and war and violence in obvious opposition to the Vietnam War. Staged by original Players director Craig Matheson, it was simply a spectacular piece, even made relevant to current times by mentioning “Iraq” and “Al-Qaeda.”

These unrestrained bits of celebration were accompanied with remembrances of past directors and people who have contributed to Players. Indeed, Al Pia was remembered for his tremendous work and contribution to Staples Players, and the history of Players was recalled through pictures capturing rehearsals in past decades. Older alumni also took part in the production, some with Broadway credits, and performed alongside current students in some numbers. Members of Players who are graduating seniors also took part in a Rose Ceremony, honoring their work and hoping for the best in the future.

And the strangest part of the evening?

As I walk to the exit of the auditorium, I pass by a few ordinary looking folk who could easily pass as long-time residents of Westport who came to support the theatre program at their town high school.

A man asks, “So, are you really Christopher Lloyd?”

“Yeah, guess so,” says Lloyd, the Staples class of 1958 alum and Emmy award-winning actor who some know as “Doc” from the film “Back to the Future.”

Photo by Kerry Long
Photo by Kerry Long

I cannot fathom the amount of work from so many different people that has gone into this production. Indeed, Players, to another fifty years of excellence!