Off-Monroe Players: What we value and believe —
Fun — Staging musical theater is hard work, and the only pay we get at OMP is fun and fulfillment. What we get back in fulfillment is directly related to how much fun we put into it for each other.
Artistic quality — Loving these plays means wanting to learn about them and perform them well. Performing them well honors the composers and writers, attracts enthusiastic audiences, and is way more fun than not performing them well.
The audience — The audience's laughter and applause are our greatest fulfillment, and their attendance is a gift to us. We owe them our appreciation and the best possible experience we can create for them.
Inclusion — From Day One, OMP has welcomed anyone to perform with us —anyone— because we all start somewhere and none of us is ever complete. We believe this is compatible with the concept of good musical theater.
Personal growth — We will support and encourage our fellow members because we are all here to improve ourselves — as people, first, and then as performers. We can all learn from each other if we are all willing to share what we know.
Accessibility — We are here to share our enjoyment of plays we love, and we will do what we can to make them aesthetically, economically, geographically, and physically accessible for anyone who wants to attend and participate.
Public service — We believe that good entertainment improves the social fabric of our community, and we will extend ourselves to share our love of the performing arts with others in enriching ways that contribute to the common good.
Esther Handleman Vail was familiar to many Rochesterians as an announcer and commentator on WXXI radio. But many might not know that in 1977, while working part-time as piano accompanist for Ed Charbonneau's dance class at New Life Presbyterian Church, Esther Vail noticed that New Life's sanctuary provided a ready-made set for Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury. A lifelong Savoyard, Esther recruited a cast of no-experience amateurs from the New Life choir and surrounding Upper Monroe neighborhood, and directed our first production. We had all signed on assuming it was a one-time event, but the fun we shared demanded an encore, and a year later we enthusiastically regrouped for The Mikado. When it became apparent that this would be a continuing enterprise, Esther came up with the name Off-Monroe Players (from New Life's location on Rosedale Street just off Monroe Avenue), and debate raged for some weeks over whether to hyphenate or not.
In the years that followed, Esther directed our first HMS Pinafore, she was our first "Katisha" (Mikado), our first "Lady Jane" (Patience), our first "Duchess of Plaza-Toro" (Gondoliers), and our first "Queen of the Fairies" (Iolanthe). For several years we continued with once-a-week rehearsals, one production a year, and only three performances, in mid to late May. We chose directors by consensus (and coaxing, if necessary), and always managed to find a piano player (in those days, it was usually Carol Tennenbaum). Esther's intelligence, humor, and unflagging goodwill guided us through the rough spots when OMP's continuing existence was by no means a sure thing.
Under Esther's leadership we agreed to charge no admission (which kept budgets in the low two figures), and to welcome anyone who wished to participate. And we all came to share Esther's belief — which she expressed with irresistible enthusiasm — that a group of grassroots amateurs gathering to learn, rehearse, and perform Gilbert & Sullivan could make a valuable contribution to the community's cultural life; and that if we had fun, our audience would, too.