In 1958 the Waterford Recreation Department and several citizens stated that Waterford should have a theatre group. The group decided to perform the play, "Arsenic and Old Lace". At the same time the play was in rehearsal at the Waterford Community Center (now CAI), the group was being formed and organized with Mary Albersold as the first President.
The founding members decided to have a Board of Directors make the decisions. It was established that there would be a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Eventually, four other Members-at-Large were added with various jobs associated with the production of a play.
Lakeland Players first production, "Arsenic and Old Lace," was performed on December 11th and 12th, , 1959 at the Waterford CAI. Under the direction of director, Duke Chaffee, the group rehearsed 3-4 nights a week. The cast included Greg Peck as Mortimer, Laura Foran as Abby and Tamara Ellsworth as Martha. Tickets were priced at $1.00 a person for the performance.
With the success of the first production, Lakeland went on to gain a membership of 70 people and performed "The Man Who Came to Dinner" and "Sabrina Fair" as their second and third productions. Shortly after, Lakeland secured permission to use the stage in the Cafetorium of Mason Junior High School. This stage had good-sized wings, a lighting system, sound system and room under the stage for storage. One of the earliest decisions was the making of flats to be stored under the stage.
The board decided to do three plays a year. They wanted to show diversity, so they made sure that each season had a drama, a comedy and a musical. In later years, the group periodically expanded and did a fourth play which was a children's show. Each production needed a director, producer, stage manager and a cast. If a musical was being done, you also needed a music director, a choreographer and a larger cast. Auditions were open and anyone was able to try. The auditions were mentioned in the Oakland Press with a date and location where the actors could assemble for tryouts.
The Board made decisions on how much to charge for admission and also how much each member would pay in dues. This money went to secure permissions for plays, the price of scripts and many other costs including: janitorial services, costumes, props, the printing of a program and the cost of materials to build the sets. Eventually the Board also decided to sell refreshments of popcorn, candy and pop at each performance. The Board worked directly with Mason's administration and janitorial services to get the dates set for the productions as well as rehearsal times. Lakeland Players stayed at Mason Middle School using it for productions or just rehearsals until 2003 when the cost of the facility was beyond their means.
At times, other places were used throughout the years. The stage of the CAI, the barn at Keatington (now Canterbury Village), Crary Middle School, Waterford Mott, the old Eagle Theatre in downtown Pontiac, the Plaza Hotel in Pontiac, Central United Method Church and the Masonic Temple in Pontiac.
Lakeland Players was incorporated into a non-profit group in 1975. The Board of Directors compiled a set of Policies and By-laws to assist in the organization of the group. The Board also added a corresponding secretary and another member-at-large. The membership has continued to grow with participants from all over Oakland County, but mainly Waterford. Our members have ranged from 20 people to over 150, many of them participating for a number of years.
The group also made sure to have fun along with the hard work of putting on plays and forming a new theatre group. The group has always had a party to celebrate the start of a new season, which was often held at the home of a local member. With all of the water properties in the area, the members are able to relax, go swimming, boating and enjoy a great day with friends. At the end of a production, a cast party is usually held for all of the cast, crew and supporting members. These parties used to last well into the night with entertainment from members reviewing the funny highlights of the production or skits. The holidays also were not able to pass without a Christmas party to celebrate..
The Oakland Press and recently some of the "home town" papers have supported the group by advertising our auditions and productions. Prior to 2000, Lakeland Players was granted permission to put a billboard sign on the hill next to the old fire station at Crescent Lake and M-59. Both the newspapers and this sign on M-59 were a prominent way for advertising. Some of our plays have been very successful such as "Fiddler on the Roof' which had approximately - 400 people in attendance for each of the four performances.
Lakeland Players frequently had a float in Waterford Parades. Lakeland Players also participated in parades with the City of Pontiac and performed at Oakland Point Mall after the parade singing Christmas carols in Dickens costumes.
Back in the early 1990's, the board was approached to participate in the Renaissance Festival in Northern Oakland County. The idea as a fundraiser for the group was just what Lakeland needed to help their finances. All participants were to be in Renaissance costumes and mannerisms. What an open market for a theatre group. Lakeland sold pop for a couple of years before they were approached and asked if they would like to have a weekend each year to sell beer. This has been a very profitable venue for Lakeland and they continue today to sell beer and wine at the festival. Lakeland Players has increased their fundraising activities to now include presenting musical revues at Central United Methodist Church featuring our veteran performers as well as new talent.
Members of the group always wanted to do more with the kids in the group. More than eighteen years ago, that became possible when we had members step up and help form a summer camp. Since that start, we have had a couple of different locations where camp was held. At summer camp, the students spend four days and are taught theatre techniques including auditioning, set dress, costumes, improvisation, etc. A performance is usually done at the close of the camp for the parents and friends.
In addition to giving the community a look at the theatrical performance of great plays at a responsible cost, the group also becomes a very close-knit group. Lakeland has had members that range in age from infants to seniors. There is a natural bonding of friendship that goes on during the work of a production. Each person counting many awesome people as their close friends.
The costs of the plays were usually a dollar or two more than the cost of going to a movie. Currently, we are still one of the best prices in town. What a thrill it is to be drawn into the excitement of live entertainment. When the lights go down and all of the action is within feet around you, you forget about where you are and you get caught in the ambiance, then you truly can enjoy the art of live theatre!
See links below for bylaws, policies, director submissions, and audition forms: