JJP'S History

Women from Joe Jefferson Players standing with gifted portrait of Joseph Jefferson III

Who Was Joe Jefferson?

Joseph Jefferson III (1829-1905), the man that inspired the theater group’s namesake, was a prominent 19th century actor that dedicated 72 years of his life to the art of theater and spent part of his youth in the city of Mobile. Joe Jefferson was elected as the second President of a national historic theater organization called “The Players Club” and is credited with being one of their incorporators. Joseph “Joe” Jefferson performed as the beloved character Rip Van Winkle on numerous stages throughout the United States and Europe, during his acting career he was noted to be the representative of the American Comedian. Jefferson’s theatrical prominence and connection to Mobile justified the naming of the theater company. 

Founding Story

In 1947, in an effort to rebuild after the devastation of World War II, fifteen local citizens gathered together to try and revamp the community theater scene within the city of Mobile. The outcome of that meeting resulted in the creation of the group known as the “Joe Jefferson Players”. After the 1947 meeting, the Joe Jefferson Players would perform in various locations throughout the city until a former church building on South Carlen Street was purchased in 1949.

Trials and Tribulations

Trials and tribulations would fall upon Joe Jefferson Players in 1959 when the South Carlen Street building was condemned by the city, and the Players were given ten days to leave the premises. A natural disaster that occurred on Christmas day in 2012 was a EF-2 tornado that ripped through Midtown Mobile and destroyed Joe Jefferson’s HVAC system and roof.  The CO-VID 19 pandemic halted the Joe Jefferson Players’ 2021-2022 season and musical production of Sister Act multiple times over the course of 18 months, which resulted in the show being officially canceled.

Joe Jefferson Players Timeline

1947: Gathering of 15 Mobilians & creation of the players.

1949: South Carlen Street Church Building Purchased & transformed into a playhouse. In the same year JJP opened to the public and welcomed female director Yvonne Howell. 

1952: Bob Snook First professional director and actor hired, stayed with the organization until 1955.

1955: Snook replaced by Bob Cahlman who was credited with redecorating the theater.

1959: Theater building condemned, forced players to abandon building and actors performed on makeshift stage within Dauphin Way Methodist for two seasons. 

1961: Original site location on South Carlen Street repurchased and opened the season with play “Look Homeward Angel”.

1963: Introduction of new director John Heald. 

1968: Expansion of theater seating and iron facade added to property. 

1996: 50th JJP season opens

2012: Christmas tornado destroys JJP’s roof and HVAC system.

2018: 1st Annual Fundraiser production of Bent Broadway.

2021: Production of Sister Act shut down due to covid. 

2024: 77th season of JJP announced with productions of Rodgers & Hammersteins Cinderella, Taming of the Shrew, The Addams Family, After Midnight and the Glass Menagerie scheduled. 

Dedicated to Southern Heritage Conservation