Delaware Today magazine Arts & Entertainment Feature: Community theater, Possum Point Players in Sussex County

The Players Are the Thing

Sussex’ Possum Point Players has charmed crowds since 1973, but it started in Beth and Bill Howlett’s Millsboro living room. Neither had community theater experience at the time, though both earned credits doing theater in college. They placed an ad in the paper and invited theater enthusiasts to their home. A dozen people arrived. The rest is 38 years of theatrical history.

The Players went from the living room to an old Georgetown hardware store, then moved to a Millsboro warehouse. They scraped cash to buy an old building from the city of Georgetown and have been renovating since. Thanks to an $800,000 project in 1999, Old Possum Hall is now state-of-the-art.

Both retired teachers, the Howletts have appeared in “Brigadoon” and “Pirates of Penzance.”

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“But my favorite experience was directing ‘The Most Happy Fella,’” says Beth Howlett. “Not only did I get to see all the elements come together for this huge musical, but it was the first show in the remodeled theater.”

Bill and Beth Howlett feel right at home as Old Pirate and Ruth from “Pirates of Penzance.” Photo by Michael SahadiFellow PPP actor John Hulse also has been hailed at Milford’s Second Street Players. He’s been performing for more than 24 years. He’s also been a teacher, school administrator, and currently an education associate at the Delaware Department of Education.

Hulse, known in these parts as the go-to funny man, has garnered kudos for playing Charlie Brown and Nicely-Nicely Johnson. But he has acting chops, tackling roles in “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Laramie Project,” a drama about hate crimes and the murder of Matthew Shepherd.

“Having the honor of recreating some true, poignant times in history, researching what the real people actually went through, was deeply humbling,” says Hulse.

“Of course, getting a laugh—or a gasp, hush or sniffle—at the right, intended moment is priceless, too,” he says.

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When the wooden heel of his shoe came off, a costumer grabbed an electric drill—which just happened to be handy—and screwed the shoe from sole through heel. The screw was too long, of course, so his shoe got screwed to the chair.

Hulse had seconds to go for his next entrance and yanked the chair off his foot before hitting the stage.

And the shoe went on.

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