SPIRIT OF STANLY: Life is a stage for Uwharrie Players

The Uwharrie Players was formed in the spring of 1975 as an outgrowth of the Stanly County Arts Council.

Thirty-four charter members set out to establish a vehicle that would provide local citizens an opportunity to perform on stage while also exposing Stanly County to quality theatrical entertainment.

Emily Morris and Michael Furr appear as Annie and Daddy Warbucks in the musical “Annie” in 2010. (Photo by James Cotton)

In the early years, The Uwharrie Players performed in local schools, churches and other spaces prior to the local Agri-Civic Center being built in 1989.

A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The Uwharrie Players, Inc. depends on support from individuals, businesses and grants to fund its operating expenses. Membership in the organization is open to anyone wishing to join.

The organization is unique in that every season of productions is chosen by a vote of the membership. A volunteer Board of Directors serves as the governing body of the organization. The Uwharrie Players has no full- or part-time paid staff. Production staff is hired specific to each show.

The first show ever produced by the UP was “Oklahoma!” (1975) It was produced again in 1994 and 2014. “Grease” (1998) was the best attended show.

Some memorable moments within the organization:

• One of our long-time, dearest members has appeared on stage exactly once. She was talked into carrying a sign across stage in “Annie Get Your Gun” (1982). She was terrified and vowed never to be on stage again, and hasn’t been.

• In 1980, the cast of “Godspell” was featured on “Good Morning Carolina,” a regional morning television show.

• During a production of “Anything Goes” (1991), the power went out. The Board entertained the idea, albeit only briefly, of continuing the show using flashlights. The decision was ultimately made to cancel the show and allow those patrons to return on a different night.

• During a production of “The Wizard of Oz” (2002), the theatre had been invaded by flying squirrels. The timing could not have been more perfect as they flew over the stage and actors during “…Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!”

• We’ve had many second-generation Players grace our stage. But this year, we had two third-generation Uwharrie Players, both acting in supporting roles together in “Bright Star” (2023).

• Life imitated art when our Captain VonTrapp and Maria got together during “The Sound of Music” (2009) and later married. They currently have two children and remain involved in the arts in their community. Our theatre company has been the backdrop for a few marriages over the years.

• In every production of “Godspell,” the same actor portrayed Jesus (1979, 1980, 1985, 2016). One time, this actor showed up at a board member’s house for a meeting and the board member’s child said, “Jesus is at the door.”

• In 2013, The Uwharrie Players premiered a play written by one of our own, Mark Cook’s “The Codgerella.”

• For the past two years, The Uwharrie Players has received grant awards from the Foundation for the Carolinas to present Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA).

TYA is a project by which we partner with the Cultural Education Program arm of the Stanly County Arts Council and the Stanly County Schools system to provide an additional production in our season geared specifically toward young children.

Adults still do the acting, but the shows are based on books read by the elementary school students. The mission is to both provide quality theatre experiences, free of charge, to the children of Stanly County, as well as to support the local curriculum while integrating theatre etiquette with the curriculum.

Our further purpose is to increase interest in theatre at a young age so that these children will grow to be involved, in a meaningful way, in continuing the tradition of The Uwharrie Players for the next 50 years.

• In 2004, we began offering a live Christmas radio show performance to our patrons whereby they could enjoy a meal and then watch a live radio show. The radio show was recorded and then aired on local radio stations during the Christmas holiday.

Shows were always done in the format of a 1920s radio show broadcast, with actors dressing in period clothing and all sound effects created live, on stage, for the audience to watch.

Commercials for local business sponsors were written and performed as well. Favorite radio shows included “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Carol” and Bob Inman’s “The Christmas Bus.” Bob even attended a performance and provided a book-signing opportunity. “War of the Worlds” was also presented one fall season.

These radio shows were an annual tradition through 2016.

This article previously appeared in the Spirit of Stanly magazine.

The Uwharrie Players have been performing “theatre magic” since 1975.

Here is a list of the productions:

• 1975: “Oklahoma,” “Li’l Abner”

• 1976: “You Can’t Take it With You,” “The Sound of Music

• 1977: “Barefoot in the Park,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Glass Menagerie”

• 1978: “South Pacific”

• 1979: “Godspell,” “Gypsy,” “Plaza Suite”

• 1980: “Godspell,” “Carousel,” “The Fantasticks”

• 1981: “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Wait Until Dark”

• 1982: “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Annie Get Your Gun”

• 1983: “Bus Stop,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”

• 1984: “I Remember Mama,” “Hello Dolly,” “Dracula the Musical”

• 1985: “The Mousetrap,” “Godspell”

• 1986: “The Odd Couple,” “Bye Bye Birdie”

• 1987: “Snoopy,” “Annie,” “Cactus Flower”

• 1988: “The Foreigner,” “Oliver,” “Little Shop of Horrors”

• 1989: “The Nerd,” “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Cotton Patch Gospel”

• 1990: “Our Town, “The Sound of Music,” “Dames at Sea”

• 1991: “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Anything Goes,” “Pump Boys and Dinettes”

• 1992: “Lend Me a Tenor,” “The Music Man,” “The Miracle Worker”

• 1993: “The Boys Next Door,” “Into the Woods,” “Baby”

• 1994: “The Foreigner,” “Oklahoma,” “Dracula the Musical”

• 1995: “Driving Miss Daisy,” “My Fair Lady,” “Nunsense”

• 1996: “The Widow’s Best Friend,” “Damn Yankees,” “Best Christmas Pageant Ever”

• 1997: “Steel Magnolias,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Deathtrap”

• 1998: “Harvey,” “Grease,” “Smoke on the Mountain”

• 1999: “Grandest Canyon,” “Li’l Abner,” “Crimes of the Heart”

• ​2000: “Catfish Moon,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “A Sanders Family Christmas”

• 2001: “Godspell,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Greater Tuna”

• 2002: “Love Letters,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Cotton Patch Gospel”

• 2003: “The Rainmaker,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”

• 2004: “On Golden Pond,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor” Dreamcoat,” “Ramona Quimby,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Radio)

• 2005: “Nunsense II,” “South Pacific,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Miracle on 34th Street” (Radio)

• 2006: “Crossroads,” “The King and I,” Blessed Assurance,” “A Christmas Carol” (Radio)

• 2007: “The Boys Next Door,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “A Grand Night for Singing,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Radio)

• 2008: “To Kill a Mockingbird, “Children of Eden,” “Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming,” “The Christmas Bus” (Radio)

• 2009: “Of Mice and Men,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Christmas Story” (Radio)

• 2010: “Steel Magnolias,” “Annie,” “Smoke on the Mountain,” “Miracle on 34th Street” (Radio)

• 2011: “Don’t Cry for Me Margaret Mitchell,” “Dearly Departed,” “All Shook Up,” “War of the Worlds” (Radio), “A High Country Christmas”

• 2012: “The Fantasticks,” “Camelot,” “12 Angry Men,” “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Radio)

• 2013: “The Dixie Swim Club,” “Big River,” “The Codgerella,” “A Christmas Carol” (Radio)

• 2014: “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Oklahoma,” “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Radio)

• 2015: “Almost Maine,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Company,” “Nativity Play” (Radio)

• ​2016: “Curious Savage,” “Godspell,” “Leap of Faith,” “Shout,” “Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus” (Radio)

• 2017: “Elvis Has Left the Building,” “Mary Poppins,” “A Few Good Men”

• 2018: “Drinking Habits,” “Cinderella,” “On Golden Pond”

• 2019: “The Doyle and Debbie Show,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Let Him Sleep Til It’s Time for His Funeral”

• ​2020: “The Hallelujah Girls,” “The Virtual Family,” “Murder Unlimited” (Radio)

• 2021: “I’m Dying to Be in the Choir,” “Blithe Spirit”

• 2022: “The Odd Couple,” “Little House on the Prairie the Musical,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”

• ​2023: “The Hundred Dresses” (TYA), “Down to Earth,” “Bright Star,” “Honky Tonk Angels”

• 2024: “Miss Nelson is Missing” (TYA), “Southern Fried Nuptials,” “The Addams Family,” “Four Old Broads”