Our group was born during the Great Depression – October 1931 to be exact. A teacher at Lincoln High School named Minna Miller Smith was asked to form a cultural group using funds provided by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Because of widespread unemployment, morale was at a low point all over the country and this agency was formed to give people something to do. A group of 27 would-be thespians met at Mrs. Smith’s home (20 Poplar Park in Pleasant Ridge) and there our group was born. A short time later, the group was christened “Ridgedale Players” by a high school senior, who was awarded a $5 prize for suggesting the winning name. “Ridgedale” combined the names Pleasant Ridge and Ferndale. We were off and running!
Our first production was a one-act, The House With the Twisty Windows, presented at Lincoln High School and cost 35 cents to see. Soon, Ridgedale Players was growing by leaps and bounds, establishing traditions that continue today.
Our newsletter, Backstage, began publication in January 1935. The wonderful, time-honored tradition of coffee and sandwiches (the “Afterglow”) made its first appearance in February 1937. After several years of presenting plays on various rented stages, the members decided it was time we had our own playhouse.
Harry Henry was appointed chairman of the Housing Committee. After fruitless endeavors to locate a suitable stage, it was decreed that we should build our own playhouse. After much effort, a playhouse was built at the corner of Ten Mile and Republic in Oak Park. All of the members pitched in to finish the job just in time (the electricity was hooked up just hours prior to performance) for the opening of John Loves Mary. The date was January 12, 1949.
Ridgedale Players continued to grow, ever-evolving, ever-changing. Junior Actors of Ridgedale was created by the membership for its children and gave its first play in 1950. At the suggestion of Jack Savage, season tickets were offered for the first time in 1957. That same year, we held our first fund-raiser, a rummage sale, much to the chagrin of some of the members who thought it “undignified.” After years of debate on the practicalities of presenting a musical on our stage, Bells Are Ringing delighted audiences as part of the 1966-67 season