In 15 years, the Providence Players of Fairfax may seem at first unchanged. The group is still formed by volunteers using means more limited than their vast love of theater to entertain their community. They are again putting on the classic Kaufman and Hart comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” and even have several of the same names on their playbills despite the years. But the differences between the Providence Players of then and now are great when considering the sense of certainty that comes when a theater group has 15 years and 40 plays under its belt. That confidence that has grown since the group’s humble beginnings, back when a second play – let alone dozens more – were not in the foreseeable future.
The Providence Players of Fairfax began as a PTA fundraiser. Parents and adult volunteers came together in 1998 to put on a play that would net funds for Braddock Elementary School.
“By the third and last performance, so many of the kids had come back to see the play again all three times, they were actually saying the lines along with the actors,” said Chip Gertzog. Gertzog, who will be directing this month’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You,” has been with the company from the start, having acted in the group’s first staging of the play.
Since then, the group has expanded to 100 member artists who entertain thousands of audience members each year with productions at their longtime home in the James Lee Community Center Theater. The Providence Players mission has been to provide an entertaining and affordable quality theater experience to the community while allowing creativity to grow as well, be it in a first-time actor or a seasoned veteran.
To celebrate their 15th anniversary season, the Providence Players will open with a reprisal of “You Can’t Take It With You,” the first show they put on together, on Oct. 19.
The comedic play tells the story of two families in 1936: The Sycamores and the Kirbys. They live by entirely different mindsets, especially with regard to wealth. Hilarity ensues when Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby fall in love.
“The play has a great message,” said Gertzog. “The Grandpa, Martin Vanderhof, says one line about wealth, ‘you can’t take it with you.’ And he’s right, you can’t.”
Many original cast members have come back to reprise their roles, joined by veteran actors who have been with the theater nearly as long as Gertzog and the original crew. Gertzog will be handing down his original role as Ed Carmichael to his son, Jimmy.
“It’s definitely different this time around, when it’s not my first time acting and not having to worry about forgetting my lines,” Gertzog said, jokingly. “I think the result of my acting in the play and being in love with this particular piece helps me be able to work more on the nuances of the play that I believe the author intended.”
“You Can’t Take It With You” will be performed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 19 – Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the James Lee Community Center Theater, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church. Sunday matinee performances are scheduled for Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18, and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, visit providenceplayers.org.