Olney Theatre Center extends National Players hiatus

The touring company has been on hold since the Omicron wave. Renovations to the Olney campus necessitate a further delay.

Olney Theatre Center is extending the hiatus of the National Players through 2026. Planned improvements to the Olney Theatre campus, including the 1938 Original Theatre and its adjoining production areas, means the facilities to house and rehearse the Players will be offline until completed. In a letter to Player alumni, Olney Theatre’s Artistic Director Jason Loewith wrote:

“This gives us an opportunity to reevaluate and redesign the National Players for the next chapter of its history. The feedback we’ve heard from recent alumni is clear: the way the Tour has historically been produced is neither as helpful to them as early-career artists, nor as rewarding as it may have been in the past. And, as with theater nationwide, the demand for the kind of Players productions we’ve been producing has gradually dropped over the past decade. Internally we’ve got lots of ideas about what the National Players will be when we reopen…”

The cast of the National Players’ 2018 production of ‘Around The World In 80 Days.’ Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Loewith has invited all Player alumni to a virtual town hall to be held this October to discuss what’s needed in the field for early-career artists, which communities are most important for National Players to serve, and how it’s best to do that. Any National Players alumni who did not receive the invitation are encouraged to contact [email protected].


Established in 1949 and based at Olney Theatre Center since 1952, National Players is America’s longest-running touring company. Founded on the principle of prioritizing areas with limited access to theater, the National Players company consists of 10 early-career theater artists who spend 10 months touring the United States with their two-to-three-play repertory to a variety of diverse populations and venues from performing arts centers, universities, but also public schools, rural community centers, and penitentiaries. National Players also acts as an educational ambassador, teaching theater-related courses to students of all ages and backgrounds. Though it travels thousands of miles and serves tens of thousands of people each year, National Players always comes home to Olney, Maryland.


Olney Theatre Center for the Arts produces, presents, and tours extraordinary performances for a diversity of audiences, and educates and inspires the next generation of theater-makers.

Olney Theatre Center strives every day to unleash the creative potential of its artists and audiences, and in so doing, to become a nationally-prominent destination for the most impactful theater performance and education.

Once a summer stock retreat in rural Maryland, Olney Theatre Center is now an award-winning, year-round regional theater surrounded in a 15-mile radius by 1.6 million people representing three of the most ethnically diverse counties in America. Since its founding in 1938, some of the biggest names in theater have appeared on Olney’s stages: from “Golden Era” stars like Helen Hayes and Tallulah Bankhead to contemporary artists like Sir Ian McKellen, Robin De Jesús, and many others. OTC welcomed Artistic Director Jason Loewith and Managing Director Debbie Ellinghaus in 2013 and 2014, respectively, who established a new artistic strategy to broaden programming with the goal of nurturing a diversity of voices and audiences. Olney Theatre Center now produces musicals and plays under the three rubrics of Classic, Contemporary, and Family programming. Since 2013, Olney Theatre Center has twice won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Production, the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and presented six world premieres. Complementing this work, OTC fulfills its mission as a teaching theater with educational programs like the Our Play program in local 5th-grade classrooms, a summer camp, and a year-round professional apprentice program. National Players is the hallmark outreach program of OTC, a unique ensemble touring innovative theater to communities large and small across the United States.

For more information, please visit olneytheatre.org.

Olney Theatre Center announces 2023/24 season (news story, April 25, 2023)


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