Plays & Players began in 1911 as a social club devoted to expanding and developing new theater experiences for and by its membership. The first President, Maud Durbin Skinner, was the wife of the famed American actor Otis Skinner. The Plays & Players Theatre, then called the “Little Theatre of Philadelphia,” first opened its doors in 1913. The theatre wes founded by Beulah E. Jay and her husband Edward G. Jay, Jr. with acquaintance F.H. Shelton in an effort to produce “American plays of ideas,” an underrepresented genre at the time. During its 100 years of performing, Plays & Players theater company has produced innumerable notable performances — some of the most noteworthy being the world premiere of the acclaimed Broadway play “Stalag 17” in 1949, and a childhood performance by actor Kevin Bacon in Member of the Wedding in 1974. The first season of Plays & Players included An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde and The Learned Ladies by Moliere, both still popular plays today.
In the 1960’s Plays & Players decided to grow from being a members only club to an all inclusive one, and opened its productions to the entire community. In the 70’s the Plays and Players Children’s Theater was added to its busy schedule. On March 14, 1973, Plays & Players Theatre was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. Over the course of the twentieth century, Plays & Players expanded its repertoire beyond community theater to include workshops, classes and more. In 2011-2012, Plays & Players celebrated its 100th season of performances by local artists in Philadelphia.
Once an exclusive club, Plays & Players has grown over the years into a professional theatre devoted to supporting established and emerging local artists in practicing and performing their craft. A historic company existing in a vibrant modern arts scene, Plays & Players continues to change and grow with the times while always keeping an eye on its rich and powerful past.