The Visalia Players was founded in June of 1957. The first play, Suds in Your Eyes, was performed in the backyard of Bridget Berryman's home. Other early productions were performed in the Legion room of the Civic Auditorium, the AAUW Club House, the side yard of Visalia Trailer Sales, Sierra Vista Auditorium, and Recreation Park.
In July of 1962, the City of Visalia gave The Players the Legion Room of the Civic Auditorium as a “permanent home.” The Players developed and redecorated this room and used it for all productions until the end of March 1964. It was known as “The Players Room.”
In 1964, the Civic Auditorium, including “The Players Room” , was to be demolished, so the search for a new home began.
In February of 1965, the old AFL Labor Temple on South Court Street, above what is now “Times Place,” was rented as new quarters for The Players. Extensive improvements were made to what became known as “The Loft.” Improvements included a new stairway, seating risers, stage construction, and painting. The Players incorporated as a non-profit organization at this time.
“The Loft” was The Players’ home for eight years, until the spring of 1973. Blythe Spirit was the last production at The Loft. A total of 48 productions were presented at The Loft. This facility was closed due to the need for extensive renovations. The Players felt they would rather invest their money in a theatre of their own instead of moving to another rented facility.
A three-year search for our own building began in the summer of 1973. We explored the possibility of building our own theatre, buying an existing building to remodel, or any other opportunity that might present itself. During this period, we kept active with three productions a year, using the L. J. Williams Auditorium, Sons of Italy Hall, YMCA, Visalia Women’s Club, Gottschalks Community Room, a ranch near Tulare, and, for the last year, the Title Insurance Building on Main Street.
THE IICE HOUSE THEATER
Early in 1976, the City of Visalia offered us either the old Linwood School or the Ice House building. We chose the Ice House. The first play was, optimistically, scheduled for November, and we began the tremendous task of converting a huge, empty building, constructed in the 1920s, into a comfortable theatre.
The Players’ members became carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, doing whatever was necessary to convert the old manufacturing plant into a theatre. As the opening date approached, the work reached a fever pitch. The theatre opened in November 1976. We had a 150-seat theatre of which we could be very proud.
We now have been in "business" for over 55 years, and over 35 years have passed since opening the Ice House Theatre. Each season, we present a mix of plays and musicals for the local community. We feel that as we grow our services to the greater Visalia community are increasing and the quality of our productions continues to improve with increased membership and financial support.