PEORIA – Nicki Haschke is a good person to talk to about the community theater scene in central Illinois.
As business administrator for Peoria Players Theatre for the past 27 years, Haschke, who turns 47 next month, spent time on the community theater stage as a youngster, starting out with a Corn Stock Theater production of “The King and I” when she was just five years old.
It’s a family thing for Nicki. After all, her mother, Sherry Haschke, serves as bookkeeper for Peoria Players and has been a mainstay with the theater group for 41 years.
There’s plenty of history associated with the Peoria Players organization which starts its 101st season next week. That makes it the longest running theater in Illinois and 4th oldest in the nation.
The 2019-2020 season includes “Tarzan” (the Disney version), “Million Dollar Quartet”, “Matilda” (by Roald Dahl), “Kinky Boots”, “Raisin in the Sun” and “Mamma Mia.”
“Mamma Mia” is the Abba-filled musical “that’s our box-office record-breaking show from two years ago,” said Haschke, noting that musicals have proven to be crowd favorites when it comes to filling seats at the Players theater in Lakeview Park.
Coming off the 100th anniversary year when theatergoers were able to vote on some of their favorite shows to be performed, five of the six shows offered this season are musicals.
“We try to find the right balance, blending family musicals with something new,” she said. Haschke made the point that Players personnel are already working on the 2020-2021 season.
Central Illinois is blessed when it comes to community theater talent, she said. “Three years ago, Eastlight, Corn Stock and Players all had auditions around the same time. We don’t usually overlap but every show had a huge cast,” said Haschke, adding that it takes an average of about 50 people to put on a Players production.
“It’s part of the great arts community we have here,” she said.
Haschke’s familiarity with the Players’ stage means she can recall program highlights such as the trained dog act imported from Ohio that made such a hit in “Will Rogers Follies” in 1997 and big production shows like “Music Man” (2010) and “Beauty and the Beast” (2016).
But having just unveiled a new season, Haschke is looking ahead, encouraging the public to take advantage of a season ticket offer—a seat for all six shows for $100. Individual tickets are $20 for adults while youth tickets are $15 each.
Those that haven’t been to a Players show in a while will be happy to discover that comfortable theater seats were installed last year, she said. Both the front lobby and box office have also been remodeled, noted Haschke.
For more information, call the Players box office at 309-688-4473 or visit https://www.peoriaplayers.org