(Written for the 5th season gala held in March 2005)
On Tuesday, August 15, 2000 Rita Starnes held an organizational meeting to form a community theater group in Osage County. She had ran an ad in the local newspaper, posted fliers around the county, mailed them to schools, churches, book clubs and the Linn Women's Club. Approximately 30 people showed up that first night to fill out a survey and registration sheet stating they would like to be involved in some way with a local theater group. The diversity of theater backgrounds in this small group was amazing. There were people with theater degrees, other people with experience in acting, backstage crew, sounds, lights, set design and costume experience. It was determined that the talent was there for a production, so all that was needed was money, a stage, lights, sets, etc. This was a tremendous response from a small rural county with approximately 13,000 people.
Several meetings were held throughout the fall of 2001. The name of Osage Community Players was chosen. The first play, Absolutely Murder, was selected and auditions set. Selling peanuts as a fundraiser was organized and named "Peanuts for the Performing Arts," with Bev Myer becoming the first chairperson of this now annual event. Joyce Symmonds, Tammy Paris and Corey Paris took on the publicity for the fundraiser and the first production. Sandy Thompson as well as others went from business to business asking for donations. The first donation was $100 from the Linn Women's Club. Through the help of many volunteers, donations were also raised by selling ads in the first playbill. The Osage County Community Center Board graciously agreed to open the main room to the new group rent free for one week for stage construction and the performances. During rehearsal schedule the room could also be used free of charge for any evening that it wasn't previously booked. Dr. Don Claycomb, President of Linn State Technical College and Pat Muenks of the LSTC Foundation provided encouragement and support for the newly formed group. Byron Baker coordinated the building of the stage with the Linn R-II High School Building and Trades class, sponsors Stephan Johansmeyer and Jennifer Bacon. Paula Mulvania and Merilee Thoenen pleated yards and yards of material for the first stage skirt. Luckily, there were also two Linn State Technical College drafting students with a love of theater, Brandi Hoynacki (now Powell) and Darrell Powell who designed the first set and built each of the original flats, which are still repainted and used today. Also fortunate for this new group, Mark Kloeppel had the technical experience to set up the borrowed sound system and lights and later to choose appropriate equipment for purchase.
The elected officers for the first year were: President A. J. Probst, Vice-President Sandy Schaefer, Recording Secretary Mary Lou Schulte, Corresponding Secretary Jamie Winkleman, Treasurer Rita Starnes, Script Committee Chairperson Shawna Pedego and board members: Corey Paris, Brandi Hoynacki, Caroline Pearon, Earlene Henson and Dave Christ.
Auditions for Absolutely Murder were held Sunday, January 26, 2001 with the first production held on March 23, 24 and 25 2001. All 150 tickets were sold for all three performances. It was a great start to have 'sold out' performances. To help raise additional funds Nancy Ashby headed the concession stand crew of Paula Mulvania, Bev Myer, and Linda Maassen. Since Nancy and her crew would be busy in the kitchen during all the performances, they became the first audience at the dress rehearsal. They were such a great audience and laughed so well, that they have been invited back each year to dress rehearsal even though there is no longer a hot food concession. These funny ladies as they are known are considered OCP's good luck charm.
With the ads, concession, peanut sales and other donations, OCP almost broke even with the first production. What probably secured the financial future of OCP more than anything else was a grant from the A.J. Schwartze Foundation. Joyce Symmonds has spent countless hours identifying OCP's needs and what it would cost to meet those needs. Each year she writes a grant letter. It has been successful each year. Because of the Schwartze Foundation and community support OCP, Inc. has flourished and operated in the black.
After a successful debut, it was determined to apply for a non-profit status and incorporate. On November 12, 2001 Osage Community Players, Inc. became a Missouri Not-for-profit with legal services provided courtesy of Newman, Comely and Ruth and then proceeded to qualify for federal 501(c) (3) status. The first board of the newly incorporated group changed only slightly from the first officers with Sarah Falter serving as Script Chairperson, JoAnne Beller as Treasurer and Tammy Paris as a board member.
Updated January 21, 2007
Since Absolutely Murder the following performances have been held:
Past Officers and Board Members
Many other individuals have donated their time and talent to OCP, Inc. in a variety of ways not directly associated with acting, lights, set design etc. Area photographer John Oidtman and current OCP, Inc., historian, Cindy Heseman have both helped preserve the activities of the group. Whether it is John's photos at mystery night for your personal photo albums and some of the photos on this web site, or Cindy's collages of each production displayed in the Osage County Community Center, they are both helping participants and audience members remember their theater experience. Janet Baker and Lisa Klebba coordinated the recent gala to celebrate OCP, Inc.'s reaching its 5th season and Valora Budnik's decorating skills has helped give our recent events a touch of class.
A successful community theater takes the talent, participation and support of numerous dedicated individuals. The Osage Community Players, Inc. Board appreciates the hard work and dedication of the people listed above and the many others who have contributed to the success of OCP, Inc.'s first five years. With the continued support of the community, OCP, Inc. looks forward to future productions and growth.