On June 5th, 1896, Carroll University students, under the direction of Professor May Nickell Rankin, performed Bulwer Lyton's Richelieu at the Silurian Casino in Waukesha.
The performance, part of the commencement celebration, marked the beginning of a rich heritage of campus and community theatre, and established the Carroll Players as Wisconsin's first college and university theatre fraternity. The Carroll Players, which have been active in theatre production since that date, is today recognized as Wisconsin's oldest active theatre organization.
At the time of the original production until about the 1930s the name, the Carroll Players, was not employed in identification of theatre activity at Carroll. Diverse theatre activity, such as classes, productions, studio/experimental shows, lectures, banquets, and workshops existed under Departmental Sponsorship. In the 1930s, the Carroll Players assimilated most non-classroom functions and became the central identification of Carroll theatre. This centrality continued until the mid 1950s when, once again, the Drama Department, under the professorship of Dorothy Sainsbury-Steinmetz, retained most controls and regulated the Carroll Players to a social and support role. At that time, a Carroll Nu Tau chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, National Honorary Dramatics Fraternity, was also established and functioned until disbandment in 1979.
With the appointment of Professors Wayne L. Christensen and David Molthen in 1970, the Carroll Players activity and role declined further. Throughout the 1970s, Carroll Players existed largely as a name on mastheads with all aspects of productions, curriculum, and fraternal activity under the control of the Department faculty and student majors/minors. Alpha Psi Omega continued to function as an honorary society, but by 1979, its membership had waned and activity was sporadic.
In 1979, the Theatre Arts Department inaugurated its new home, the Otteson Theatre, and began to investigate a renewal of the Carroll Players. A committee of students and faculty met in a period of May to October, 1980, and effectively reestablished the Carroll Players as a social and educational organization.
The Carroll Players have continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s in both social support roles for the Department of Theatre Arts, as well as remaining involved in campus activities and community service.
In 2001, with high member involvement and continued interest from outside the department of Theatre Arts, the Carroll Players remain an important part of the Carroll tradition. David Molthen, as faculty advisor to the Carroll Players for over 20 years, continued to guide the organization into the new millennium.
In 2003, Professor Scott M. Boyle, assistant professor of theatre arts, took on the role of faculty advisor. His enthusiasm for the organization and theatre helps to continue the ambitions of the Carroll Players in the years to come.
In 2013, the current executive board re-examined the constitution and updated it for the first time in 10 years. The mission statement was revised and the roles of the executive board were more clearly defined, under the supervision of the current Theatre Arts Program faculty, Professor James Zager and Professor Jennifer Dobby.
Carroll Players Disney Formal 2014, Photo credit: Robert Colletta
Homecoming 2013, Photo credit: Robert Colletta
Photo at top: AS IT IS IN HEAVEN, 2016 (Photo credit: Robert Colletta)