Discover Westfield Community Players, a Hidden Gem
Saturday, March 23, 2013 • 9:07am
WESTFIELD, NJ -- People who drive through Westfield may assume the red house at Edgewood Avenue and North Avenue West was a home. It’s actually Westfield Community Players, a theatre group founded in 1934 by a dozen people who simply enjoyed theatre.
“It was basically a social club,” said Joanne Lemenille, past president and former vice president of production, who is currently serving as director of performance. “It grew into quite a membership, over four-hundred,” she added.
Lemenille believes that it was around 1954 that they decided to break ground at the current location, adding a stage in 1976, where before there was only a workshop. Prior to constructing the main stage, performances were held at Westfield High School.
Although the theatre looks like a house, it was never designed to be one—its appearance was created to blend the building into the residential neighborhood. Lemenille likes to call the theatre “a little jewel – a hidden gem.”
Over the years, the award-winning Players has brought more than 200 comedies, dramas, musicals and mysteries to life on their stage, continuing to add to Westfield’s cultural scene.
It’s a non-profit organization, with performances put on strictly by the Westfield Community Players. Membership is only $50 per year to attend all four shows. (Cost is $20 per ticket for each play and $25 for the musical for non-members.)
Tickets are available to non-members at the door or in advance at www.westfieldcommunityplayers.org
Lemenille has been with the theater since 2006. Her husband, Steven Lemenille who is currently directing “Proof,” is also the webmaster. Joanne pointed out that whatever a person’s title is, he or she will jump into all aspects of production. “Production covers everything,” she said.
Two years ago, Westfield Community Players started a childrens’ show sponsored by the Ward Foundation, named for a family in Westfield who wanted to provide funding for these productions. The childrens’ shows occur in December and are announced in July or August. The last children’s show was “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which was a hit according to Lemenille.
“It was so nice because we had a lot of grandparents bringing their grandchildren. It was well attended,” she said.
The players also recently began hosting talent shows to showcase local talent. Auditions are announced on the website and all ages are welcome. There is no date scheduled for the next one, but according to Lemenille it will probably be in June.
After Proof’s final show on March 23, the next show will be a musical comedy, “Olympus on My Mind,”a spoof about the mythical god Jupiter who becomes tired of mixing with the gods and decides to come down and mingle amongst the mortals on Earth.
Actors come from all over New Jersey to try out for the major performances.
To participate, “You don’t have to be a member. You don’t have to become a member,” Lemenille said. “We welcome all comers. We have a pretty good reputation with community theatre.”
The Westfield Community Players are always seeking volunteers, such as anyone who can paint scenery, work backstage with props, anyone who is interested in writing or sound, box office or ushers.
“Volunteers are the life blood of the playhouse,” said Lemenille. “Without volunteers, it wouldn’t exist.”
Currently showing this weekend is “Proof” on Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m.
“Olympus on My Mind” opens on May 4.
For more ticket information and upcoming shows, visit www.westfieldcommunityplayers.org.