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Players Keep Repertory On The Road

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Players keep repertory on the road


Repertory theater isn’t dead. It’s alive and kicking at Ann Arbor’s Cobblestone Farm, where the Rosier Players, the nation’s longest running repertory show, have brought a slice of entertainment history this week.

Robert Nelson, a member of the troupe, says the players have scripts dating back to 1870. “We try to keep everything as authentic as we can,” he said.

The Rosier Players, based at Jackson Community College, bill themselves as the last of the traveling tent shows. There are 16 members in the group, 14 of whom work full-time.

The troupe, originally called Henderson Stock Company after owner Richard Henderson, was founded in 1898 in Mason. In 1938, the show was bought by Harold and Waunetta Rosier. The Rosiers sold the show in 1976 to Jackson Community College.

"The show started in Mason, but was always kind of based around the Jackson area,” Nelson said.

Each night, the players perform a different three-act play, the plots of which mostly center on what Nelson calls a "Toby character.”

“They’re ‘Toby shows’ where the central character — a stock character — is a guy with red hair, freckles and is a country bumpkin,” Nelson said.

The show the group performed Wednesday night, for example, was a love story about a traveling salesman who rescues his love interest from the clutches of a greedy villain.

Waunetta Rosier, the troupe’s historian, said in repertory theater, the troupe must learn a wide variety of plays and put on a different play every night.

Nelson said that performing in a tent makes for "intimate” theater.

“The tent kind of dictates a certain kind of acting, and puts constraints on staging and projection,” he said. “Everything is a little bit exaggerated. It’s a unique style, not like what you’d find on Broadway.”

He said performing in a tent “is a real treat,” one that encourages more than the usual amount of interaction between performers and the audience.

“The shows are a lot of fun and they’ve had a pretty good turnout here,” said Ann Walding, interpretive assistant at Cobblestone Farms. “They sing songs, and even had an old-fashioned sing-a-long when I went.”

A band plays for the audience before each show, and actors perform vaudeville between the acts.

The Rosier Players are performing at Cobblestone Farm through Saturday. All shows start at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at $3 for adults and $1.50 for children.

The Rosier Players work their magic for an audience at Cobblestone Farm.