Capitalizing on the talent of the university’s students, the gifted faculty, and the abundance of Tahlequah tourists during the summer months, the River City Players (formerly known as the University Players) hosted their first season in 1983. C.H. Parker, now-retired Northeastern State University instructor of speech and theater, and the late Joe Davis, NSU jazz studies director, created the script for the River City Players’ first production, Ferlin’s Folly or Dolly Goes to Dixie. Combining the best of popular music, Broadway hits, gospel, and everything in between, River City Players quickly became one of the most popular shows produced by NSU.
In 1995, C.H. Parker met Tim Gilliam, a young country and bluegrass musician who had recently returned to Tahlequah from performing in Nashville to pursue a degree in mass communication at Northeastern State University. From that initial meeting sprung the nexus for Downtown Country, the university’s annual Branson-style show showcasing live country music. The first year’s Country Fare evolved into NSU’s Downtown Hoedown, and eventually became known as Downtown Country. Downtown Country has hosted a number of talented artists over the years, including NSU alumnae, 2005 American Idol winner and country music superstar Carrie Underwood. Around the year 2000, the two casts joined marketing and box office efforts to combine as one series known as the Stars in the Summer. In 2013 the cast returned to the name River City Players, however the legacy of Downtown Country is still continued through the country performances of the River City Players. Now in its 31st season, River City continues to showcase our talented performers and brings audiences back year after year.