DETROIT:The Historic Players Club

23 Mar

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We’ve been passing by this place forever,the lovely brown brick building with the tile roof, wondering what secrets it holds inside; a Detroit gem we’ve always wanted to see.  A plaque hangs above the door that  reads “Nunquam Renig”, carved in stone above the door is “The Players”.  We heard it was a Members Only, “what happens at the players, stays at the players” kind of place. It was truly serendipity when Kris noticed the ad for a St Patrick’s Day Eve concert. The Players was open to the public, we’re so there…..

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First a little background: The Players Club was founded in 1910 as a gentleman’s club. Their official purpose is to encourage amateur theater; from acting and writing to set design and building. Their theatre season runs from October to April; on the first Saturday of the month members perform 3 one-act plays at what is called a “frolic”. Performances are all done by members for members. In 1925 the club was able to construct their very own home, the “Beautiful Lady” known as the Playhouse. Member/architect William Kapp designed the Playhouse, and Oh! What a magnificent job he did.
We arrived at 7pm, just as the doors were opening. We took our time admiring the outside of the building; designed in the Florentine Renaissance Style, leaded glass windows are accentuated by stone blocks. Large wood entry doors are surrounded by smooth stone, it appears quaint, like something from another time. And then we went inside……As wonderful as I had imagined it would be, didn’t even come close to how wonderful it is. I felt like I had just stumbled upon a castle; lots of brick and stone, thick wooden beams and wrought iron, a winding staircase lurks to the left. So much to investigate, where to start? We were warmly greeted by members who offered a guided tour before the show started, perfect! We began by ascending the stairs; thick rope strung through wall mounted rings serve as a railing, framed caricatures commemorating each performance hang on the wall. The higher you climb, the more narrow the stairs. At the top a knight in shining armor greets your arrival. The second floor is home to the Founders Room, used as a formal meeting room, an uninterrupted chain of photos of club presidents wrap around the room. A large fireplace anchors one wall; wood plank floors, leather couches and a baby grand piano make the space warm and inviting. When you become a member you are given a mug with your name and the year you joined; they are stored in cabinets in this room. When a member has passed away a black ribbon is placed on the mug. While upstairs we were shown to the recently restored balcony; the view of the theatre from up here is fantastic! The floor plan of the room is laid out before you, the theatre can be taken in as a whole, it’s striking. Aaahhhh, then there’s the ceiling; a beautiful timber structure, dark stain brought to life with richly colored stencils, it’s spectacular.

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On the way back down I was able to take in more details; the ceiling is painted in a reproduction of a night sky, light shone through stained glass windows.We grabbed ourselves some Porter, with glass in hand we proceeded to our table for the evening. I sat in awe while Kris took photos; vintage 1920’s murals hang in the stone archways that line the two side walls, painted by Paul Honore they depict a traveling group of troubadours. The colors are bright, the scenes eye-catching. The columns that divide the archways are capped with decoratively carved capitals. Above, eight smaller banners represent the skills and trades needed to stage a theatrical production. And of course, if you look all the way up there’s that ceiling again. Small details are everywhere you look. With a little time for more exploration we went behind-the-scenes so to speak and took a peek at the dressing rooms and storage rooms. The hallway is narrow and line with more caricatures, these went back even further to like the 40’s. It is interesting to note the difference in style from artist to artist (some you may even recognize) and decade to decade. With the show about to begin we took our seats, we had a great view of the stage.

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The Balduck Mountain Ramblers were introduced and the music began, almost as quickly my toe started tapping. In the spirit of St Patrick’s Day the songs were distinctly Irish, the five member band was extraordinarily entertaining. It was obvious many in the crowd had seen them before, they knew the audience participation parts by heart. During the intermission a light dinner of corned beef sandwiches, chips and pickles was served. The second half of the show began, there was light banter between the band and audience, everybody was having a good time. For a time I felt as if I was actually in a castle in Ireland, listening to songs native to the country, played on traditional instruments, in this most astonishing building. The evening passed much too quickly. 

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Not ready to go home yet, we took a drive over to Corktown for a nightcap. Sugar House on Michigan Ave occupies a beautifully restored space in a century old building. The decor and menu are a throw-back to a pre-prohibition era; classic cocktails are jazzed up with homemade syrups and freshly squeezed juices. The menu changes seasonably and also offers a large selection of international beer and organic wine. It was an exceptionally warm March evening, so the door remained open. The softly lit room portrays a by-gone elegant style; exposed brick walls, brass chandeliers. We chose cocktails off the spring menu; a Johnny Rottenseed for Kris and a Black Palm for myself. The list of ingredients is long and seemingly complicated, but the end result is awesome! It was the perfect ending to an ideal evening. 

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5 Responses to “DETROIT:The Historic Players Club”

  1. dcxdan June 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    I visited the Players Club during a bus trip to see the Indian Village neighborhood. We stop at the Players for lunch and a tour of the building. It was quite fascinating to see the building and it’s interior. I never notice the place before.

  2. Christopher Pott December 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    I was a member of Player’s before I moved to Florida. I have moved back to the Detroit area and want to become a part of this beautiful theatre again How should I do this. Christopher Pott

  3. janet burns August 31, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

    Such a Jewel …thank you Henry & Karen

  4. JJ November 27, 2018 at 10:42 am #

    You did a fine job capturing the essence of both the club and the building!!! As past president of The Players my photo hangs near the green planter on the right side of the photo you published of the Founders Room. Also, probably 20 years ago I introduced the Balduck Mountain Ramblers to The Players, producing their show there for six consecutive years. Happy to hear both the club and the Ramblers are rambling along!

    Haven’t been back to The Player in more than a decade. Living in Knoxville now.

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