The Anselmian Abbey Players were founded in the fall of 1949 by Fr. Thomas Flaherty, O.S.B., and English Professor Edward J. Comiskey. They co-directed Abbey Player performances for four years beginning with the first show, Career Angel.
After four years, Professor Comiskey took over the full directorship of the players, a position he held for 35 years. Long-time chair of the English department, Professor Comiskey taught a range of courses including Shakespeare. He retired in May 1988.
During his tenure as director, the Abbey Players began their tradition of performing a Family Weekend show, a play in the fall, one-act plays in the winter and a musical in the spring. In the 1950's the players collaborated with Mount St. Mary College in Hooksett as well as other area colleges to fill the cast.
In 1981 the Abbey Players began performing in the newly built Dana Center. Previously they had performed in the Chapel Art Center, the North Lounge of Cushing, and at one time, in their own building.
Professor Landis Magnuson joined the English department in the fall of 1988, becoming the Abbey Player Director. His first production with the Players was House of Blue Leaves. He also developed new theater courses in beginning acting and beginning directing.
During Professor Magnuson's 27-year tenure, the Abbey Players added the Spring Cabaret, scenes at the annual Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration, and sponsored Saint A's Got Talent.
The Abbey Players celebrated their golden anniversary in November 1999 with a gala. The 50th anniversary festivities included alumni performances of scenes or songs from previous plays and musicals including Carousel, Little Shop of Horrors, and Chicago. The weekend also paid tribute to former director, Professor Comiskey with the dedication of the Edward J. Comiskey Center. The facility was named after the beloved director in recognition for his dedication to the college and the Abbey Players.
In its 66-year history, the Abbey Players have performed more than 200 plays and musicals. They've presented Anything Goes and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum three times each, and five full-scale Shakespeare productions. Click here to see a full list of productions.
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