The Athenian Berean Community Players is a theater troupe dedicated to bringing the arts and economic growth to Nelsonville and the surrounding Appalachian area. They are a tight-knit group of unlikely friends that has become a family, and one of the largest supporters of the historic Stuart’s Opera House, a restored building used for everything from contemporary dance to concerts.
The ABC Players work to put on shows each season ranging from Musicals like Shrek! The Musical to classic plays like Arsenic and Old Lace and a traditional show at Christmas. They strive to fund each show with profits raised from past performance ticket sales and then make up the difference in donations. Their expenses include the rights to the show and music and the cost of building the set and props. After putting on a show they keep just enough for future endeavors and donate the majority to Stuart’s. The goal is to reach $50,000 donated in order to get the in-the-works renovated green room named after them, and they have $12,000 left to raise.
Stuart’s Opera House is a historic landmark of the Nelsonville Community that The Players have strived to keep up-and-running during recent and trying years.
“When Stuart’s first reopened after the fire they were just about the only thing going on here,” president of the Stuart’s Opera House executive board and Ohio University alumna Carol Ault said. “They’ve become an integral part of Stuart’s mission.”
Most importantly, The Players and Stuart’s Opera House provide a source of entertainment and arts for the community. David Dabelko, a retired Ohio University computer science and political science professor, says he “brings his grandchildren to almost every show because it is great entertainment for a reasonable price.”
“A lot of people don’t appreciate how much work goes into it,” Dabelko said. “I’m always impressed with the quality. It takes a real team to do what they do.”
Andrea Hashman, a Nelsonville native and third generation actor with the ABC Players has seen firsthand the impact the group brings to an often-underestimated area. “It brings culture to a tiny little town in Southeastern Ohio that you wouldn’t expect to have an opera house and a theater company.” she said.
To the ABC Players theater, above all else, is a family, a sanctuary, an outlet, and a home for everyone involved. Coming together to create a piece of live, interactive art forges lasting friendships and a deep sense of community that is unique to the Players.
An interesting dynamic is created within ABC Players when people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and interests come together, working the various jobs needed to put on a great show. You’ll find laughter and incomparable camaraderie in this diverse group of people. “I’ve gotten to meet all these wonderful people by helping backstage,” said Theresa Lewis, a woman who began helping with costuming when her daughter joined the troupe. “It’s great how everyone can just come together when they usually never would have met.”
Families have also turned their experiences with the ABC Players into an opportunity to bond. “We are extremely close because of doing this together,” said Lee Carter on performing with her children Orion, Carter and Lily. “I can’t imagine not doing theater with the kids. As a single mom it can be hard to bond and talk with them… some families have sports and events, for us this is ours.”
The Carters are also a prime example of how theater promotes inspiration to children to further an education with the arts. Carter holds that her daughter Lily plans to go on to musical theater in college because of her experience with the Players, and her young son Orion has been featured in multiple projects by Ohio University film students, which helps expose him to the possibilities he has in his future.
Theatrical productions are also known to inspire creativity in children and young adults and they teach them how to collaborate with people of all ages. For many, they discover their niche and learn to find an inner confidence they didn’t know they had.
“It’s good for kids to be in this environment because it brings out their real personality,” said Sydney Lewis, an eighth grader at Nelsonville-York Middle School who has participated in four shows. “I was really quiet before and it’s really helped me come out of my shell.”
Sydney’s mother, Theresa Lewis, strongly supports her involvement because she’s been able to see a difference in her daughter as well. “Sydney’s able to walk up and strike up a conversation now, where before she couldn’t,” she said.
The ABC Players support the arts and economic growth in the Athens county community and the personal development of their cast and crew. You can see it in the faces of proud relatives smiling through tears. You can see it in children running to meet their favorite characters when the Players come off stage after a show. With the ABC Players you can see there is something truly special happening in Stuart’s Opera House.