Owensboro High School’s Rose Curtain Players is the oldest theatre troupe in the Commonwealth, with 100 years as an organization and a theater society even prior. Current Director Carolyn Greer said that with this rare feat, the group has remained true to its foundation: allowing every student to try theatre without judgment.
“We have always established, and I’ve always said that the Rose Curtain Players allows every student to try,” Greer said. “… It’s a really cool encouraging environment where the kids learn from each other, and they work together, and they understand that it truly is an ensemble.”
And this sentiment has been continued even to the faculty that help with the program.
Greer began teaching at OHS in 1988. In her first year, she heard about the program’s legacy throughout the community and the state for quality theater. She said former Director Janie Robinson created a positive foundation.
When Greer began at OHS, she was an English teacher, and Robinson led the only theatre class. Greer said that Robinson noticed her passion for wanting to teach theater and gave her a chance to show the class that year.
While she knew the legacy of the theatre troupe and the shoes she had to fill from Robinson, she knew she wanted to continue fortifying that environment by allowing everyone a chance to try theatre.
By creating an environment where everyone can try, she said they’ve also fostered an environment where everyone values the ensemble that goes into making a show.
“You can’t do it without everyone. Even a one-woman show has 15 people in tech and somewhere in some capacity working on it. So I think that’s a standard,” Greer said.
The formerly one-class program has expanded to 6 classes focused on theatre. This includes all five theatre classes and a technical theatre and art class where they build and plan sets for shows.
Looking into this year’s season, they are flashing back to previous shows and putting a spin on them.
In planning the season, Greer said she sought shows that honor the past and give the troupe a chance to make it stronger and different than before. The 7-show season includes the following shows:
- ‘Gary Grinkle’s Battles with Wrinkles & Other Troubles in Mudgeville’ – Oct. 23 & 24, 2023
- ‘Among Friends and Clutter’ – November 16-19, 2023
- ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ – November 30 and December 1 & 2, 2023
- ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ – February 29 and March 1 & 2, 2024
- Spring One-Acts’ – March 11 & 12, 2024
- ‘The Literature of Our Lives’ – April 16 – 18, 2024
- ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ – May 2 – 4, 2024
The oldest revisit is ‘Gary Grinkles,’ initially performed in 2003.
“It’s going to be really exciting for the kids. Some of them have never experienced these plays before, and they’re some of our most well-received pieces over the years,” she said.
In working to make them different, Greer said this year’s Among Friends and Clutter performance will be completely different from their 2014 performance. This year’s show will feature the full-length of the show, unlike the one-act play, and the cast will be made up of both her Production Basics classes, with each class being cast in half the show.
“That’s just a testament to the kids that I had that much talent and that strong group in each class to do that. I’m excited. We’re doing pieces from Among Friends and Clutter we never did because we only did that as a one-act. So there are a lot of pieces that people have never seen if that’s the only version they’ve ever seen,” she said.
While the shows have changed over the years, and students have come and gone, Greer said the support that the troupe has received has remained the same.
She said the community in Owensboro understands the importance of the arts and how to support them. Through the years, families have gotten attached to the program, and as a mom of three theatre students turned educators, she doesn’t know if there could’ve been a better place for her children and these students.
“That’s the cool thing about Owensboro. There’s a way to do it all. It takes a village, and we’re so blessed to have so many people in this community who support the Rose Curtain Players, encourage it, and help us. We always say it’s a great day to be a Red Devil, and it is. And it’s a great day to be a Rose Curtain Player, too,” Greer said.
To cap off the 100-year celebration, they want to have a reunion of all previous Rose Curtain Players where they can see shows and host an event in the summer of 2024.
Beyond the year, though, Greer says she has three years left as director and hopes to find the new director that will continue the tradition of the troupe.
“Who will be the next person to take the Rose Curtain Players and take it in their direction and take it and do something different with it? Just as Janie encouraged and nurtured me, I hope I can do that for the next person who comes along,” she said.