How we began...
Since 1950, political, social and cultural history of the Mud Creek Valley area has evolved from and revolved around the local landmark, THE MUD CREEK BARN PLAYHOUSE, home to the Mud Creek Players. We are proud to be Indianapolis' longest running community theater organization.
When gasoline was rationed during WW2, friendships in the vicinity were strengthened as the ladies of the valley found themselves remotely situated from city friends and activities. Lonely and eager to do their bit for the war effort, the gals met weekly to sew bandages and blankets.
When the group was asked by the Red Cross to choose a name for themselves, they chose the "Lemon Butters", the wonderful sauce covering the homemade nut bread they were enjoying that day. After the war, when their sewing services were no longer needed, the ladies continued to meet. Occasionally, an evening meeting was planned and the men folk invited to participate.
It was at one such gathering that Sol Blumenthol, who had been a player at the Little Theater in Chicago in his younger days, suggested that this crowd would make a fine dramatic group. As quickly as that, the idea blazed into action!
The first official meeting of what was to become the Mud Creek Players was held in the home of Arthur (Pooch) and Grace Payne on February 23, 1950. They resolved to meet every other Thursday, created a play reading committee, charged membership dues and started a newsletter, "The Mud Creek Shoosh", hilariously edited by Merz Condit and George Caleb Wright.
The Players selected "The Late Christopher Bean" as their first play. It was staged in a real barn - the Murphy barn on Sargent Road. A great clean-up furiously began, alongside nightly rehearsals, for the grand premiere production. They barely had time to throw out the cows before opening night.
Our first play was performed on October 22, 1950. The audience sat on authentic Hoosier "hay-baled" chairs, and the cast used the empty stalls as dressing rooms. Nearly the entire membership (much of the surrounding community) was cast in the play, with a different set of actors used for each of the three acts. The players, ever civic-minded, donated the proceeds to the Castleton Volunteer Fire Department.
As one theatrical performance followed another, with notable success, the organizatoin grew. Merz and Mary Condit offered their empty barn located just west of Sargent Road on 86th Street as the company's permanent home. The Players broadened the scope of artistic activities to provide something for everyone. Members pitched in to turn the Old Barn into a functional playhouse and community center. In addition to theatre arts they provided space for art classes, square dancing, movie nights, costume parties, book club meetings and neighborhood pitch-ins.
The Mud Creek Players continued to present plays in the Condit Barn, one or two a year, until one fateful day in July of 1963, when the Barn burned to the ground on a dress rehearsal afternoon! The show must go on, and it did, on schedule in the auditorium of Crestview grade school.
Resolved to preserve the special offerings the Players had brought to the valley, members of the community pooled their resources and collected donations to purchase the property at the corner of Mud Creek Road and 86th Street, where the Mud Creek Barn Playhouse now stands.
The Players formed the nucleus of the neighborhood, not only as thespians, but as civic leaders, shaping and protecting much of the Mud Creek Valley from being crushed by the wheels of progress. Banding together, they fought several outside forces. In 1956, they fought to stop a proposed turnpike from Pendleton Pike north to Chicago with a huge bridge span that would have eliminated most of the green space surrounding the area. In 1962, a satellite airport was proposed for the northwest corner of 86th and Sargent Road. Again the MCP members led area residents to rally against and put an end to the proposal.
A few years later it was revealed that the Indianapolis water company intended to dam Mud Creek to create a sister to Geist Reservoir. Once again, they fought and won! Through all the controversies, the Mud Creek Players performed plays to help raise money for the fight.
That sense of civic responsibility remains at our core. In addition to providing quality theatre performances at the lowest possible cost (sometimes charging as little as $1), we work hard to be a good neighbor to our surrounding community. We are a local polling place and provide a free meeting space for both the Mud Creek Conservancy and the Sargent Road Association. We offer top quality youth programs and make theatre education for people of all ages our primary mission.
Interested in becoming a member? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org