From its founding as the St. Pius Players in 1957 to its current status as the Southgate Community Players, the Downriver thespians have been promoting community theater and encouraging local talent.
The group’s website, scponstage.com, explains that the group was formed following a minstrel show, “Cotton Pickin’ Paradise,” put on by two members of St. Pius Parish in Southgate.
Board member Chris Rollet, whose parents were among SCP’s founding members, said a small group of parishioners formed a group, The St. Pius Players, to produce a passion play, “For This I Was Born,” with an original script, which was performed for the next two years at St. Pius.
The group elected officers and developed a constitution, forming the core of what would become the Southgate Community Players.
Rollet said that after operating for a few years under the auspices of the parish, the group decided to venture into Broadway-style shows, and in November 1963, chose the 1943 musical “Oklahoma” as its first large cast, royalty musical production.
“The theater group had the bad fortune of having opening night fall on the same day that JFK was assassinated,” Rollet said. “As the saying goes, the show must go on, and it did, with a much smaller audience than anticipated.”
The group became known as the St. Pius Southgate Community Players in 1963, and in 1964, it joined the Community Theater Association of Michigan. In 1968, the group formed a Young People’s Theater to involve children in play production.
In 1971, the group broke its ties with St. Pius and became the Southgate Community Players, in an effort to broaden its member base and attract a broader membership base.
Rollet said the group has had three different buildings over the years, beginning with the old city fire and police station on Northline Road, which, ironically, succumbed to fire, and was unsalvageable.
In 1981, the group purchased a small building on Dix Toledo Road, south of Northline Road, which he said was big enough for board meetings, costume storage and some rehearsals. It also had a storage garage.
Fifteen years later, in 1996, the group purchased its current Corner Playhouse, at 12671 Dix Toledo Road, in Southgate. The group recently purchased stadium seating, which the local MJR Movie Theater was retiring, and seats 85 patrons in its comfortable seats. The Corner Playhouse typically hosts select summer shows, children’s theater, and rehearsals.
SCP’s mainstage shows are performed at Davidson Middle School, 15800 Trenton Road, Southgate, where it has produced shows for the past 50 years.
Over the years, the group has produced many notable productions, including “A Chorus Line,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “City of Angels” and “Something’s Afoot.”
Rollet said the group recently upgraded its lighting and sound system at the Davidson Middle School Auditorium, and it continues to seek to be among the first to present recently released Broadway shows. The group also celebrates an annual much-anticipated Oscar Night.
Rollet said the group was saddened in March when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the opening of its March production.
“We have faced problems over the years, and the coronavirus is just another one,” Rollet said. “We work hard to present live theater to all who enjoy it. We had three shows in our current season that were left in limbo, but we have every intention of doing them all. As they say, the show must go on!”
For more information about the Southgate Community Players, go to scponstage.com, visit its Facebook page, Southgate Community Players, or send an email to [email protected]