Bringing over 60 years of excellence to the performing arts, the Willapa Players continue to enrich, enliven and educate the cultural life of the Willapa Harbor area. The Players are a registered, 501 (c) (3) nonprofit public charity.
Beginning in 1955 as an adult education class, the "Willapa Light Opera Company" was to experience various names, homes and styles of operation. The first three years saw four different plays performed at the Raymond High School auditorium. Early directors had to be careful in their choice of material since any risqué dialogue or content was too controversial for our community and thus a no-no.
In the fall of 1958, the "Willapa Players" moved to the First Street Playhouse and over the next two years performed many classic plays and musicals such as Bye Bye Birdie and Barefoot in the Park. Our first musical Goldilocks was performed in 1964, directed by Norma Briney, Marie Hannan and Olney Nevitt.
In 1966, lack of space and a possible property sale/dislocation sent us looking for a new home. We found one in the old Polish Hall - built in 1912 as a center for ethnic and immigrant groups in our region and sitting vacant for five years. We purchased the building and the adjacent lots, and in 1969 devoted several months to repair, renovation and construction of a new stage. In the fall of 1969 our "8th Street Playhouse" opened with a musical Once Upon a Mattress.
Toward the end of the 1980's a renaissance of younger faces and fresh talent began to emerge from the local community, and in 1989 the "8th Street Playhouse" was re-dedicated as the Hannan Playhouse in recognition of two founding members, Bob and Marie Hannan. This production marks over 65 plays produced and performed since the theater was re-dedicated.
Today the Willapa Players, Inc. continues to grow and prosper, largely due to the vision, dedication and encouragement of those who came before us. We are proud and grateful to be a part of this tradition of community theater.
"Oscar, the Polish Ghost" by LaRayne Watts
In 1912 - 1913, the Polish Lodge of Raymond built a hall on Eighth Street. Over the years this building saw many polkas, much laughter, and a great deal of friendly, ethnic, early community activity. As members grew older, died, and their families moved on to new lives in other communities, the lodge finally disbanded and the building became abandoned.
In 1969 the building - with a broken back and in a sad state of disrepair - was purchased by the Willapa Players and remodeled as a theater. As people once again began frequenting the building they became aware of strange occurrences: footsteps overhead in the attic when no one could possibly be up there; doors opening and closing with no one nearby; props and other articles placed in one spot and later found on the opposite side of the stage.
Once, in the middle of rehearsal, an odd, quiet cat appeared offstage where there are no windows or door. It calmly walked across the entire length of the stage and then simply disappeared again on the other side where there are again no exits. It was never seen again.
Some research revealed that a Polish gentleman named Oscar was very active in the Lodge and actually died in the building. The Willapa Players are convinced that some part of Oscar remains in the Playhouse and he is enjoying the theatrical activities he finds happening around him. Occasionally the Players hear what sounds like a voice in an adjoining room or from a dim corner. Sometimes in rehearsal, sounds of a chuckle or a quiet laugh can be heard from a darkened corner of the rear seats. If we're rehearsing a comedy, the chuckles are as good as a standing ovation (if the scene is a serious drama, we know we need to work harder).
Although he is friendly, he seems to be very shy. As far as anyone knows, Oscar has never been active when there's an audience in the Hannan Playhouse.