Castle Craig Players in Meriden holding 25th anniversary gala this month

Castle Craig Players in Meriden holding 25th anniversary gala this month


MERIDEN — Castle Craig Players is celebrating 25 years of live theater with a two-night fundraiser gala next weekend.

The event, called “Let’s Start at the Very Beginning,” will feature the community theater group performing a medley of songs from past productions with some actors reprising their roles.

The official gala on Oct. 21 was capped at 50 people and has sold out, but the group added another event on Oct. 22, with a 5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. performance, auction items and light snacks.

There are about 30 tickets left for the Oct. 22 event, available at

Melanie Del Sole, Castle Craig Players board president, said money raised will help fund upcoming productions and improvements to the Almira F. Memorial Playhouse at 59 W. Main St., including the goal of buying a new HVAC system.

Del Sole’s father, Warren Stephan, founded Castle Craig Players in 1992.

Del Sole said her father, who died in 2013, was a renowned singer, who performed with Del Sole and her three sisters around New England.

Almira Stephan, Del Sole’s mother, died in 1996. Warren Stephan, with the board’s approval, named the Castle Craig Players’ theater after her to “honor the support she gave,” Del Sole said.

“They were both born and raised in Meriden and had a strong belief in bringing theater back,” she said.

The city of Meriden donated the approximately 1,625-square-foot building to Castle Craig Players in 1997. The group’s first show produced in the theater was the musical “Guys and Dolls,” which will be the first show featured in their gala performance.

Castle Craig Players had been active for five years before moving their performances downtown.

“We did a lot of musical reviews at community organizations, local churches,” Del Sole said.

The group’s first official show was Christmas 1992 at the YWCA annex building, “which they let us use as our first home theater space,” Del Sole said.

The group had used their future home as rehearsal space for several years.

“Then we decided, why couldn’t we perform here?” Del Sole said.

After a lot of hard work, they cleaned up the bathrooms and basement. Maurice Poirier, board member at large, built dressing rooms and, along with Warren Stephan, the 450-square-foot stage where the group still performs.

“Over the years we’ve tried to constantly upgrade,” Del Sole said. “It’s an intimate space but has a lot more flexibility.”

Today, the theater is equipped with stage lights, a soundboard, lighting board and projector. The first stage lights were floodlights inside coffee cans.

“We still have some to remind us where we came from,” Del Sole said.

Ian Galligan, board vice president, grew up in the Castle Craig Players.

He played Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol” at age 8 in 1996, under director Warren Stephan.

“I was in almost every musical they did there” during his school years, he said. “It was such a big part of my life; I grew up on that stage. More importantly, I grew up as part of the Castle Craig family.”

He attended Pace University in New York City, majoring in theater and graduating in 2009.

After working professionally in the industry, “I found myself back in Meriden, with a creative urge, and I transitioned to directing,” he said.

He currently works at the Shubert Theatre, and continues to perform in and direct Castle Craig Players productions.

“Castle Craig was there and they welcomed me back like any family would,” he said. “It really has come full circle for me and shaped my career.”

Mayor Kevin Scarpati has been involved with Castle Craig Players since his debut in “The Secret Garden” in 2009, and holds an honorary seat on the board.

He’s slated to perform at the gala and said the small theater fosters a quaint, intimate feel, but delivers quality productions.

“You hear that from community members everywhere,” he said. 203-317-2212 Twitter: @LCTakores

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