"3 cubes and an ashtray!" - That is what the complete set for our first production,
John Pielmyer's provocative drama, "AGNES OF GOD", required. The entire set
could fit easily into the director's Toyota. And "AGNES" played for four
performances at the Haverhill City Hall, in September of 1994. The entire production budget was $500.00 and the
show needed to sell 75 tickets to break even--it sold 76! And with that, Pentucket Players Inc. was born!
The group was founded by John R. Buzzell of Haverhill and Judy Forgione of Burlington, MA. Buzzell had had
extensive experience in community theatre and had met his co-founder, while working on different free-lance
directing jobs throughout Eastern Massachusetts. He was always saddened by the fact that The Merrimack Valley did
not have a Community Theatre organization. An area rich in cultural diversity and resources seemed to lack a
theatrical showpiece that would further enhance the richness of the area. With that in mind, John Buzzell and Judy
Forgione set out to create a top-notch community theatre organization based in Haverhill that would welcome
performers from throughout the Valley and beyond.
With the help of an attorney, the first Pentucket Players Board of Directors was founded and the corporation
papers were drawn up. However the legal process never interfered with the group's mission, "to bring
live, quality theatrical entertainment to the Merrimack Valley area..." and the productions continued
to play on the stage of the Haverhill City Hall, until Prof. Peter Waldron of Bradford College, where Buzzell was
an alumnus, heard of the group's growing reputation and invited them to use Bradford's beautiful Kemper Theatre in
the stately Denworth Hall, for their productions. After extensive negotiations with the college and the insurance
companies, Pentucket Players presented their first musical play at Bradford College in March of 1997, just two and
a half years after the group's inception. "HELLO, DOLLY!" opened on a Friday
night and played four performances: each one during a New England Blizzard! But the weather couldn't dampen the
enthusiasm of the company! And though the show had incurred debt, the group vowed to be back in the fall! And back
we were with a brand new Board of Directors including Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Deghan of North Andover; Mr. Guy (Terry)
Kelley, Ms. Mary Scovotti, Ms. Jeanne Cooper and Ms. Marilyn Roberts of Haverhill, plus Ms. Janet Blinn and Ms.
Stefanie Stanley of Newton, NH, Mr. & Mrs. Peter Bliven of Methuen; Mr. Norman Morris of Amesbury AND a stunning
new production of the musical, "ANNIE"! And indeed, the "sun had
finally come out...Tomorrow!" The production broke all box-office records and sold out for nearly
each of the six performances putting Pentucket Players back into the "black!" The group was now able to renovate
the rented loft-space at 14 Stevens St. that had housed the group temporarily. Painting, soundproofing, real toilets
and a new makeshift floor were all added to the former mill space, leased from Mr. Steven Shain of Dye-Tex Inc.
Pentucket Players had found a home and a lease! Dedicated to their original mission statement, the Players felt the
need to keep their productions as diverse as the community which supported them, so they endeavored to keep up with
their presentations of non-musical, alternative lifestyle and revue-type pieces. Many of these pieces were produced
in the basement studio theatre in Denworth Hall. These smaller productions allowed the group to test its wings and
try different kinds of theatre; two of which ended up on the stage of the Spingold Theatre at Brandeis University,
during the Eastern Mass. Association of Community Theatre, (EMACT)' s Annual Drama Festival. Both "Lion
in Winter" and "Jeffrey" were well received at the Festival, the latter
winning three nominations and the Best Set Design Award.
When the news came out in the fall of '99 that Bradford College would be closing its doors, the group felt a
shudder. It was impossible to return to the limitations of the Haverhill City Hall Stage and yet no other facility
seemed appropriate or available. Once again, Peter Waldron, who was now working at nearby Merrimack College, contacted
John Buzzell and invited him to tour the newly-opened Rogers Center for the Arts on Merrimack's campus, in North
Andover. It was the perfect place for the large scale musical productions that Pentucket Players was now producing.
Casts grew from 20 to 40 to over 60 in a single show. Sets and set pieces grew higher and wider - grew-enough to fill
the 18' proscenium arch and then there were the costumes! Yards and yards and yards of fabric passed under the
watchful and creative eye of Marie Bliven, resident Costume Designer and President of the organization. A phone
call in late June from Tams-Witmark agency in New York, assured the group of the caliber of production they felt
necessary to guarantee their successful debut in this new venue. Pentucket Players was granted the first community
theatre license in New England for the Tony-Award winning play, "Titanic". Pentucket
Players had arrived at the Rogers Center!
With the ever-increasing demands of a multi-talented performer base, founder John Buzzell set out to create the Summer
High School Theatre Workshop program. Now in its third season, the workshop has presented "Into the Woods,"
"Pippin" and "Grease." With the help of board members, Kathy DiNicola and Terry Kelley, the workshop has received generous grants from both
the Haverhill Cultural Council and the Lawrence Cultural Council.
Now just twelve short years later, our needs have grown well beyond "three cubes and an ashtray", but our mission
remains the same. And though we have produced over thirty main stage musicals and dramatic pieces, worked with well
over 2,000 performers from all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire and brought quality theatrical entertainment to more
than 50,000 audience members, we still, more than ever, need your help, to keep the "Sun shining" for Pentucket Players
well into the future!!