Performing for Audiences since 1968

The Black Swamp Players was founded on 21 July 1968 in the home of Mary and Gene Dapogny. Over our fifty-three year history, we have mounted productions of 250+ plays, musicals, and operettas in our efforts to “to provide opportunities for area residents to experience quality, amateur, live theater in all its many aspects.” Our shows have played to an audience of tens of thousands of citizens in northwest Ohio. Located in Bowling Green, Ohio, we are the oldest and the only community theatre organization catering to citizens of all ages.

Our organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of 11-15 individuals from in/around Wood County. Our current Board of 14 hails from Pemberville, Waterville, Bowling Green, Perrysburg, Rossford, and Toledo; our Trustees range in age from late-20s to late-60s, include males, females, and non-binary persons, and are employed by industries as diverse as the Zepf Center, Bowling Green State University, The Danberry Co., Woodlane Residential Services, the Historic South End Initiative, Eastwood school system, The Ohio Theatre & Event Center, the Wood County Commission on Aging, and the Bowling Green public school system.

For fifty-three years we have been a nomadic troupe of performers, mounting our productions in a variety of public spaces in/around Bowling Green, including but not limited to elementary school cafeterias, church fellowship halls, the Pemberville Opera House, the Cla-zel Theater, and more. For almost two decades each, we were housed first in the Woodland Mall and, most recently, in the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Bowling Green; the FUMC currently stands as the longest continuous venue for Black Swamp Players’ performances.

In April 2019, the Pastor at FUMC notified our Board President that the organization wanted to expand some of its outreach programs, and, in order to do so, they would need to sever their relationship with us to free up their Fellowship Hall for the nine months of the year that we are in rehearsals and production. In June of that same year, several members of our Board of Directors viewed the property located at 115 E. Oak Street in Bowling Green, which served as the former home of Plan, Do, Talk Daycare. Immediately those Board members recognized the potential of the space and set up a second viewing of the property, this time with the remainder of our Board members. This second meeting took place in late-June 2019 and, after our Board members had toured the property, we held an impromptu Board meeting, during which we voted to enter into a lease-to-own agreement for the property.

Currently, we are engaged in a capital campaign to raise funds to purchase the property, which per the terms of our lease agreement must happen on/before 31 July 2021. We are being guided in this campaign by volunteer fundraiser Sharon Hanna, who has a lengthy history of fundraising expertise and who most recently spearheaded the fundraising efforts for the Wooster Green project in Bowling Green. Our Steering Committee is headed by Co-Chairs Kathy East, Lee Hakel, and Milt Hakel and includes Board members Heath Diehl, Inge Klopping, Deb Weiser, and Bob Welly.

In addition to our mainstage season, we are seeking to expand our arts programming now that we have our own permanent location. In the fall of 2019, we inaugurated a playwriting competition for local playwrights. Our goal for this program is to nurture writing talent from citizens within our community by offering them an opportunity to workshop their plays and see the results of that workshopping in a full-scale production. Our first year yielded seven submissions—from one-act plays to full-scale musicals—and our first winner, Nina Wright’s Mimi’s Famous Company, will be produced as part of our next season. In future, we anticipate offering workshops in playwriting and stage direction. Before COVID-19 shuttered our operations, we also had begun offering a free monthly music and staged reading series; we intend to resume this programming once it is safe to do so. Finally, we are, in our next season, establishing what we hope will be a signature program for our organization: a family friendly holiday show.

While our 2020-2021 season currently is on hold until the state of Ohio issues guidelines for safely re-opening live theaters, we are excited about the possibilities that the coming year holds for us. We are expanding our season from three to five productions, as well as diversifying the kinds of stories, identities, and experiences that are represented on our stage. We at The Black Swamp Players are committed to inclusion and we want to provide a space—whether onstage, backstage, or in the audience—where everyone in our community feels welcome and represented.