How It All Began…
[This text with a few minor modification I just made to it first appeared in the program for Shirley Valentine Anniversary Celebration in January 1995]
The Chappaqua Drama Group had it’s beginnings in 1953 when the Hechts and Mirken’s and the Prestons discussed the idea of a local theatre group dinner. At first they and their friends read plays in each other’s home and called themselves the North of Broadway Players. In 1955 they changed their name to The Chappaqua Drama Group and offered the first CDG production, “Harvey” , at the Bell School. In the fifty-four years since then, CDG has produced a wide range of dramas, musicals, comedies and original works.
In 1966 Fels Hecht and Seymour Robinson lent CDG money to buy the historic feed and grain store located by the northbound Chappaqua exit on the Saw Mill Parkway. For many years the red barn became the cent for meetings, rehearsals, set construction and costume and prop storage. We were one of the very first community theatre groups to own our own building.
CDG once had a board of of some 24 plus directors and advisors but today CDG is run by by lean five member board who make policy decisions, about CDG’s administration, discuss financial matters, select each season’s productions, interview directors, run open auditions and work on the productions themselves. In addition to pre production, onstage and backstage tasks, there is constant work to be done by board members on correspondence, grants, and fundraising., liaison with the Chappaqua Library, ticket processing, advertising, poster and program printing, membership, public relation and the work of the historian who clips reviews and corresponds with alumni.
CDG’s season of a musical, a drama and a comedy are chosen by the Board. Plus, two shows are chosen by the Producers Showcase Chairperson (more often than not the late Phil Tocantins). These are typically lower budget, possibly avant garde, often more risky in terms of box office success. CDG often includes original works, the most recent of which was “On Second Thought” by Chappaqua’s Tony-award nominated Peter Kellog. We feel that in this way we can offer a good range of quality theatre to our audiences.
CDG has a strong affection for it community and serves it in different ways. We offer senior and student discounts; we give an annual $500 Helen Hecht Award to a graduating senior with a demonstrated interest in the theatre; we loan our building to the Saw Mill Summer Theatre for their productions; we lend out costumes and props to local schools and other community theatres; we participate in Community Day and Historical Society events. when the Chappaqua Library Theatre was built, CDG advised on the design of the theatre and in 1988 after suggesting the installation of an infrared listening system, got the ball rolling with a fundraising event featuring CDG stars of the past and hosted by Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana.
It would be good to end by quoting the late George Ferris, a beloved friend who died too young. He said in an interview: “When first called to serve on the CDG board I was a bit apprehensive. I expected a group of snobby, stuck-up people but instead found a group of warm, friendly people who welcomed me and all newcomers… The group does not get caught up in politics [HAH!] We are concerned about providing quality entertainment. CDG prides themselves on the fact that we do not precast. All roles for every show are always open. Although directors have final casting decisions, they are not allowed to precast. We encourage and welcome new people.New blood is what will make CDG grow and help provide exceptional theatre to the community. “