MIDDLEBURG PLAYERS - BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Founder, Jean Gold
Standing: from left to right, Janalee Coxwell, Elizabeth Rice, Robin Meyers, Maryann Withers, Neil Peddicord, Churck Hasset; sitting from left to right, Julia Tayloe, Alyn Beauchamp, Jean Gold, Bunny Shick, Rita Lang. (missing: Tucker Withers, Rita Rowand)
MIDDLEBURG PLAYERS - A LITTLE HISTORY
In 1965, Jean and Bill Costin moved to Middleburg from a life “on the boards” in New York, where Costin was an Executive Producer and Gold studied acting and worked for Time/Life. They moved south to be closer to horse country, “but we felt starved for the theater,” Gold says. Mulling over the idea of starting a theater group, the couple brought the subject up at a party one night and found there was enough enthusiastic interest to go ahead with the plan.
The first show they tackled was the musical “Bells Are Ringing”. On the wall of Em Sharp’s “brick wall” set, were written the words “George White Sells Chicken Feed”. The tickets sold for $2.00 and the show was well attended. It got a great review which was, incidentally, written by Jean Costin! The music was performed by Jack Rakestraw’s orchestra which was very popular in the area at the time. Incidentally, Rakestraw was Goldie Hawn’s father.
Jean wrote the next musical, a revue called “Side by Side” which got a great review from the Fauquier Democrat which Jean did not write. But it took more than reading a script and choosing the actors to be successful. The once fledgling group had to scratch for costumes, sets,
lighting and a place to stage the show. “We weren’t exactly Radio City Music Hall,” Gold says of the troupe’s early days. “We started with a bare stage.” The “bare stage” was the Middleburg Community Center which has enjoyed a cooperative association with the Middleburg Players for many years.
Gold credits much of the early technical success of the group to former Lighting Director, Ed Winstead, whom she calls “innovative”. Struggling to get the early shows off the ground with any equipment they could find, the troupe used footlights. “Nobody used footlights anymore”, Gold remembers. But Winstead brought the group into the modern era with spotlights, pole lights and a lighting board, all donated to the Community Center with proceeds from successful productions.
Shows were selected for all kinds of reasons. Jean and Bill had taken a trip to London and seen“Mousetrap” and raced home to produce it at Buchanan Hall in Upperville. They had a houseful of teenagers (four kids each) and so they produced “Girl Crazy” during summer break to keep them and many other local teens constructively occupied. “Mame” was produced because the talented Betty Rigg (who looked a bit like Angela Lansbury) was available to lead the cast.“Mame” was hugely popular and included many locals in hunting pinks.
The Players were just beginning to have an identity and to be taken seriously. Certain trends began to emerge. It was discovered that Jean had an uncanny knack for spotting undiscovered (sometimes even to themselves) performers in church or at the post office. By the weekend
before any given opening night, the uninitiated would always despair that the show would actually ever be ready but…it always was. A structure of programs also began to emerge - a musical in the spring and a comedy or mystery in the fall.
In 1976, the Players was in the midst of rehearsals on 1776 when Bill Costin died. In typical fashion, Jean picked up the script and went to work. The Show Must Go On! There followed“Carousel”, “Lorelia/Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, “Anything Goes”.
Jean remarried to Jay Gold in 1980 and their residence was in New York so she was not involved with the Players for a few years until they decided to build a house down here. Since then there is hardly a classic musical that the Players hasn’t produced from “Pal Joey”, “New Girl in Town”, “Gypsy”, “Chorus Line” , and "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".
Just as the actors come and go, so do the people in charge. Gold claims to have retired in 1994 after her hugely successful production of “Cotton Patch Gospel” but she continues as a member of the Board of Directors.
Choosing shows is one of the most important components of success. The group has had to juggle what the actors want to do, what the community is interested in seeing and then find the money to pull it off. There is also an enormous amount of volunteer work that's done to get these shows off the ground. Not only does a group need people to make sets, costumes, and props but there’s also lighting, sound, and stage management. And let’s not forget ticketing, hospitality, ushering, cleanup, scheduling and advertising. There is a small army of people that make each show work and this is what the Middleburg Players is all about - the opportunity for people to work together toward a common end for the enjoyment of the participants and the entertainment of the audience.
Stay tuned to our Current Productions page for the latest information and notices of interest to performers, directors, producers and technicians.