Workshop Players first show was directed by Valerie Jenkins Gerstenberger in the summer of 1947. A number of her Clearview students who had graduated wanted a place to continue to produce theater. Their first production was WESTERN UNION PLEASE which they performed in August 1947 at Clearview H. S. auditorium. The production was such a success that they decided to fully organize the group so they could continue production. It took them about a year to do this.
Late in 1948 they began rehearsals for their second show, Smilin Through. That show opened in February of 1949 at the first home of Workshop Players, The Hickory Tree Grange on the west side of Amherst. The Players produced 20 shows at the Grange during 1949 – 1952.
The current home of Workshop Players is the one-room school house on Middle Ridge Rd. in Amherst Township. The original school house was a wooden frame structure built in 1876. When the current sandstone building was erected in 1898, the wooden school house was dragged down the Ridge to its current location at the corner of Middle Ridge and Hidden Valley. Our stone building was used as a school until 1951. Surprisingly, some of our current patrons actually attended school in this building!! In the fall of 1952 Workshop began remodeling the interior of the building and the first show at this Middle Ridge location was FIVE TRAVELING MEN in February of 1953. We have been at this location for 55 years.
Our stage is arranged in the arena style which means that the audience surrounds the stage on all four sides. Most of our shows are done in full arena. Occasionally we produce a show in thrust format with audience seated on only three sides. To our knowledge, we are the oldest, continuously operating arena theater in the State of Ohio.
In 1954 we became members of the Ohio Community Theater Association (OCTA). We continue as a member in good standing of OCTA. Our Founder, Valerie Gerstenberger, was inducted into the OCTA Hall of Fame in 2003 for her 50+ years of service to community theater.
In 1957 Workshop Players was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. This status has allowed us to seek out grants at various times in our history for special projects.
Over the years many improvements have been made to our production facility.
- Rest rooms were updated;
- The coal furnace was replaced and heating has been constantly updated along with central air-conditioning
- The original seating had been rescued from an abandoned movie theater in Cleveland. In 1988 we installed new state -of-the-art theater seating;
- The lighting system has been upgraded many times to a modern computerized system. A new lighting grid was installed in December of 2007.
- We have a brand new entrance and our audience area is handicapped accessible.
The final show of our 60th season, G. I. Jukebox, is show #263. We have produced a broad range of shows with casts of 1 or 2 actors to 35-40 actors. We have produced dramas, comedies, mysteries, classics, children’s productions, new works by local authors and musicals – large and small.
We are currently looking toward projects that will expand our parking lot and create a larger lobby with handicap accessible restrooms and a new sign.