History of the Players
Theatre at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a long history. Records trace the founding of a drama club to 1896. This drama club was reformed in 1921 and again in 1929. The best record we have is dated November 25, 1929 and states: "The first regular meeting of the R.P.I. Dramatic Club was held Tuesday, Nov. 25, 1929 in the Proudfit Building." And thus a club was born. The meeting minutes dated March 12, 1930 also contain a significant point in the club's history: "The question of a name for the club was brought up and a motion was passed to call it hereafter "The R.P.I. Players". These records exists today, as excerpted from the handwritten meeting minutes of the club. Throughout our history, the R.P.I. Players have inhabited several locations. Three of these locations are buildings that we have occupied the longest and considered our homes.
The Old Gymnasium was located at 707 Broadway, just south of the Main Building. This location may not be immediately familiar to you, but to locate it, you need to visit the Approach. The Approach was built on the site of the old Main Building, which was destroyed by the 1904 fire in Troy. At the base of the Approach, and to the left is where you would have found the Old Gymnasium. Built in 1887, it was used as a gymnasium by R.P.I. until 1912. From 1912 to 1929, it was a Masonic Lodge and meeting space for other Troy city organizations. Currently, the site is a parking lot for the Rensselaer County government offices.
The R.P.I. Players became tenants of the Old Gym in 1929 and remained there until 1948. In 1948, the building was condemned by the City of Troy and vacated. The R.P.I. Players moved into the 15th Street Lounge while R.P.I. made extensive repairs to the Old Gym. The return to the Old Gym occurred in November 1950 with the production Born Yesterday. Through many years of conversions and upgrades to the equipment and facilities, the Old Gym served as home to the organization until 1965 when the R.P.I. Players moved to their second home, the 15th Street Lounge. The Old Gym was razed in 1966 as part of an urban revitalization plan that was to place a major north-south roadway through downtown Troy. This roadway ended up being built on the other side of the Hudson River in Watervliet (West Troy) and is known as Interstate 787 today.
15th Street Lounge
Also known as Lounge 15, the building was an old USO hall that was purchased from the Army after World War II. It was located on the opposite side of 15th Street from the Armory, just south of the Quadrangle Dorms and Russell Sage Jr. Dining Hall. The building was first inhabited by the R.P.I. Players during the 1948 - 1949 and 1949 - 1950 seasons while repairs were performed on the Old Gym. The 15th Street Lounge became the permanent home of the R.P.I. Players in the middle of the 1965 - 1966 season with the production of A Slow Dance On The Killing Ground. The building was shared by R.P.I. Players and other campus organizations including WRPI, the Outing Club, the Fencing Club, the International Club, the Band, Orchestra and Glee Clubs for concerts and recitals as well as a location for worship on Sundays.
Like in the Old Gym, the R.P.I. Players found it necessary to modify the interior spaces of the building to suit their needs. Modifications of the facility continued until the 1982 - 1983 season when a building renovation commenced. Displaced from their home, the R.P.I. Players managed to still produce a season of shows by performing in other campus locations including the McNeil Room of the RPI Student Union and the West Hall auditorium.
In November of 1983, the newly renovated R.P.I. Playhouse opened with a production of West Side Story. The building that you see around you is the result of the renovation of the 15th Street Lounge. Some additional spaces, like the costume shop and set shop were added to the building during the renovation, expanding the footprint of the building. This facility has been home to the R.P.I. Players for several years and will be the home for several more years to come.
Like past homes, the R.P.I. Playhouse has been modified to suit the needs of R.P.I. Players. The building is always a work in progress and will always be changing.