First Baptist Church
Originally the home of the First Baptist Church, constructed in 1913 with architectural services provided by Thomas Campbell and Louis Osterhage. Designed in the Classic Revival style, the building was characterized by a temple front with large stone pillars and a triangular pediment. It also features a large central dome.
The structure was originally accessed by a long flight of steps. In 1964, in an effort to increase accessibility, the front of the structure was remodeled to offer street-level access and a balustrade platform.
Old Town Players Theatre & Arts Center
With generous financial support from the greater Vincennes Community and Historic Landmarks Indiana, OTP acquired the building in 1996, after the FBC congregation constructed a new church on Wabash Avenue.
A handicap lift is available to allow easy access from street level to the ticket office and auditorium on the upper floor. Restroom facilities are available on both levels.
The original pews are still used for seating; however, 2 rows in the center section now feature comfortable club chairs for an upgraded seating option.
Adapted from an article by Bernie Schmitt
published in Boomer Magazine, November 2009
Mary Jo & Arnold Vermillion, Terry McCraney, Greg Risley, Amy Loomis
The group met at the Vermillion home in the fall of 1977 to discuss creating a community theatre group. According to Mary Jo, the group’s first question was, “What do we do first?” to which Amy Loomis replied, “Let’s begin with a play.” Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor” was chosen as OTP’s first production.
Fundraising for the initial show was accomplished through a variety show and dinner, and a stage had to be built from scratch. The group had access to a former feed store on First Street where they built a revolving stage because there wasn’t enough room to make set changes. During the blizzards of 1977-78, members dragged materials through snow drifts to get sets, costumes, and other things prepared for the theatre.
“We only had 60 seats in there,” Vermillion said. “The heater didn’t work and the audience kept their coats and galoshes on. Once, we performed in candlelight because the power sent out. These tribulations make for good memories.”
Over the years OTP productions have been staged at a number of places, including a couple of shows at local churches, the Fortnightly Club, and Gregg Park. In the mid-1980s the group got into an old building on Second Street near downtown, in what became the Blackburn Theatre. A stage was built, and leftover theatre seating was somehow obtained and installed. The place held 96 seats, but if there were 60 people a night, the show was considered a success. Problems are inherent in any non-profit organization and the upkeep to Blackburn Theatre was tough enough, what with heating and cooling woes, not to mention a leaky roof.
“There was one year when the rain came down on us,” Vermillion said. “We had buckets on the stage and everywhere. The water even created a puddle on stage. The audience didn’t seem to mind.”
Then in 1996, Old Town Players had the good fortune to obtain the former First Baptist Church on Broadway at Fifth Street in Vincennes. A plaque on the entrance to the OTP Theatre reads: “The House That Bob Built.” It is reminding patrons of the late Bob Orvick’s hard work as OTP treasurer for many years, to land grants and other support, so that the community theatre group could have its own home. The group received grants from Eli Lilly and a huge local donation from the Bierhaus Foundation.
Even with a new theatre, rehearsals take place without much heat in the winter or much air conditioning during the summer, to keep utility bills down. For the same reason, stage lights and other electronic equipment isn’t used until just before opening.
While OTP is non-profit, there are still expenses to cover. Beyond the utility bills, royalties must be paid for every performance of every show; scripts must be purchased for every performer, director, and production staff member; sets have to be built, painted, and furnished; and costumes need to be designed and created.
Theatre crosses all boundaries because everyone - on stage and off - participates in the creative process with everyone else.