After 32 years of bringing theater to the Hudson County area, the Park Players are still going strong.
Having performed a variety of shows from Hello Dolly to Steel Magnolias, the Players’ goal – according to the mission statement on their website – is to “establish live, quality, theatrical productions at an affordable cost, providing the community with an all-around educational background in all genres of theatre.”
“It’s a lot of fun. We laugh every night.” – Trisha Johnson
Behind the Park Players
Originally founded by two members, the troupe slowly grew in size as cast members became more and more involved and expressed interest in joining permanently.
For founding members such as Joseph Conklin, theater has always been an escape from the monotony of life.
Conklin, along with fellow theater enthusiast Patrick Noble, started the Park Players over 30 years ago in order to provide people with this very escape.
“I just love theater,” said Conklin, adding that it takes people away from their problems. “For two hours they sit, think, and become part of the characters with us. We make them happy.”
A retired teacher, Conklin spent 36 years at Robert Waters School in Union City before becoming drama facilitator for Woodrow Wilson School in that district.
His niece, Trisha Johnson, currently serves as treasurer for the troupe. Johnson became involved with the Park Players roughly ten years ago.
For Johnson, her motivation is “making something come alive to an audience.”
“We just bring a smile to everybody’s face,” said Johnson. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Jason Knox, a lifetime North Bergen resident of 31 years, currently serves as the stage manager, a role he had previously fulfilled at North Bergen High School.
“I love the imagination of it,” said Knox. “You can just jump into anybody you want to be.”
Willing to take on any venue
From beauty salons to restaurants, the troupe has put on shows all over the Hudson County area for over 30 years.
“We started out at the Park Theatre in Union City many, many years ago,” said John Fiorenza, Chairperson of the Park Players. “Then we branched out to different venues.”
The Park Players are no stranger to unconventional venues, such as their production of The Little Shop of Horrors, which was done in an actual florist.
Other venues have included the Waterford towers in Edgewater, The Church of the Good Shepherd in Fort Lee, and the Elks Lodge in Weehawken.
“We’ve branched out all over,” said Fiorenza. “We’ve done [shows] all over the [Hudson County] area.”
The upcoming show
The Park Players’ next production, And Then There Was Nun, is a humorous take on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, a murder mystery.
The cast of characters features female Hollywood icons – from Marilyn Monroe to Hattie McDaniel – each one a part of a nunnery.
“It’s a campy laugh riot,” said Knox. “Funny show.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Johnson. “We laugh every night.”
Auditions for the show began in March, with rehearsals starting shortly thereafter.
“We can’t get through a rehearsal because all we do is crack up,” said Fiorenza.
“I would like to tell people definitely come see it,” said Johnson, “because there’s not one second you don’t laugh.”
North Bergen’s Antonia’s by the Park restaurant is the scheduled venue for the show. It will premiere July 22. The show dates are July 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, and 31.
Tickets are $40 for adults, $39 for seniors and students, and $38 for groups. The show starts at 8 p.m. on the Friday and Saturday dates and includes a 6:30 dinner. On the Sunday dates, the show starts at 3 p.m. and includes a 1:30 lunch. For tickets, call 201-941-6030.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.