Community Players of Streator, Inc. evolved from a small group of people who "simply wanted to put on a play", according to Donna Peterson. In 1958, Mrs. Peterson, a drama instructor at Streator High School, heard that a local man shared that dream of hers to establish a community theater in Streator. Kes Pollack was program director for WIZZ radio and the two met in the lobby of the radio station to discuss plans and ideas. The project quickly began to turn into an exciting reality as the two contacted others who shared their interest in the theater.
Through the eagerness of many volunteers, the space formerly occupied by a warehouse became Engle Lane Theater, Because of Mrs. Constance Engle's generosity in 1960, this simple warehouse was donated to Community Players, Inc. and since has been converted into a comfortable, well-equipped theater which seats 247.
Mrs. Peterson and Mr. Pollack first contacted Dr. William C. Schiffbauer, who ultimately became a driving force for Engle Lane Theater. His background in musical theater performance and strong support of local offerings made him a prime candidate for the group. He became president of Community Players, Inc. in 1960 and held that position until his death in 1987. His guidance and enthusiasm helped put Engle Lane on the map in community theater. The theater now stands as a living tribute to Dr. Schiffbauer when in 1989 the board of directors initiated the theater name of "The William C. Schiffbauer Center for the Performing Arts at Engle Lane".
Hundreds of people have also contributed to Engle Lane's success over the years. From designers of sets, costumes, makeup and lighting, to the crews that have served behind the curtains, to board members, directors, staff and performers, all have given themselves unconditionally to this cause of putting on a play. People who have walked across the stage are now doctors, lawyers and professional people. Many children in 1960 can now recall their stage debut to this theater, and while the list is endless, one thing ties it all together. Once inside the doors of Engle Lane, everyone is part of a team with the shared goal of doing their very best. While they work diligently, they receive no monetary compensation. Their reward comes in the form of applause, making the dance steps, memorization of lines and hours of preparation all worth it.
The success of Engle Lane is due to many factors, among them a very important audience. People have financially supported the theater and have been faithful in attendance. These people have given many dollars to the theater as well as a distinguished group whose donations helped pay off the mortgage in 1988.
From the very first production of "Harvey" to the shows of today, one thing remains the same....the devotion and love of the theater we all share. Perhaps Donna Peterson said it best with the following poem composed in 1982 -
I have an incurable disease....It's called The Theatre.
Its symptoms are a pounding heart, cold sweaty palms,
trembling of the knees, an occasional loss of memory and
the craving to spend large amounts of time
with others similarly afflicted.
There is no known cure, but there is therapy available
in the form of much exposure to bright lights, grease applied
to the face, and applause.
Contracting this disease is not cause for alarm. It is not fatal.
It can, as a matter of fact, produce numerous
very pleasant side effects.
The very worst that can happen is to suffer a
slight swelling of the head.
Written by Donna Peterson, 1982
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