Over 40 years ago, a devout Christian with passion for the act and a love of the stage did everything she could to combine her religious and professional interests into something new. While working for the Ally Theater, Jeannette Clift George put together a small band of young like-minded actors and created a traveling troupe that would do pop up plays at various churches. The plays they performed were written and directed by George herself. The group dubbed themselves the After Dinner Players.
This went on for years until George was cast in a film titled, The Hiding Place, and was then nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
This opened all sorts of doors for the A.D. Players. The team found a building, and with the hard work of Mrs. George’s engineer husband, the building was retrofitted into a small theater. In 1967, this work led to the opening of The Grace Theater, on West Alabama.
“Ever since the beginning Jeannette dreamed of having a bigger a space,” said Leigh McLeroy, director of PR and Marketing.
If there’s anything to be said of George, it’s that she makes her dreams come true.
With that being said, the much larger and extravagant facility named The Jeannette Clift George Theater, located at 5420 Westheimer, was opened this past February.
The Grace Theater sat around 200 people while the new theater seats over twice that amount.
The incredible new building was designed by a once Grace Theater goer, John Gabrielle.
“John has been going to our shows for so long, so it was sort of a labor of love for him in designing the new building,” McLeroy said.
Being that A.D. Players are a non-profit the new facility was built mostly through sponsorships from the community.
“Our opening this wonderful new theater is a testament to two things: Houston is a very art’s friendly city and it’s a very generous city,” said McLeroy. “We have long-time friends of the theater that have supported us since the beginning when we were a tiny theater with six actors to where we are today.”
Some of the plays we put on, specifically the more religious pieces, were in fact written by Ms. George,” said McLeroy. “She is a very prolific playwright.”
Although the A.D. Players have a homey feel, they are a very serious theater company.
“We are a professional theater company. All of our actors are professionals that get equity wages,” said McLeroy. “The only difference between us and other companies is that we are non-profit and we chose to tell different kinds of stories. We focus on wholesome moral stories that show the true human condition while also making you feel good when you leave.”
The A.D. Players typically have six mainstage shows and four children’s shows a year.
In addition to putting on the shows, the A.D. Players also want to get youth involved in learning how to put on a show through their Theater Arts Academy.
“The kids that come to our classes actually get to put on shows, and even get to perform them here,” said McLeroy. “It’s really cool, I mean you wouldn’t believe how talented some of these kids are.”
With everything that the A.D. Players have accomplished, they still remain humble.
“I mean it when I say that it is by a miracle that we are sitting here today,” said McLeroy. “This was always Jeannette and her husband’s dream. And now being in it and sitting in it, it’s very surreal.”
A.D. Players started the season with To Kill a Mocking Bird and will be ending it with Godspell. If you are interested in attending a show or volunteering for one, please visit adplayers.org.