Ms. Bennie Nipper

Virtual Memorial

Many hearts were touched and saddened with the loss of our beloved Ms. Bennie.  During this difficult time of social distancing, we are not able to gather to celebrate her life which saddens us more.  Although we cannot touch, hug or share our memories with each other in person, we WILL gather virtually to celebrate her amazing and beautiful life.

Please join us for a Zoom webinar.
When: Jul 12, 2020 02:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Topic: #ThankYouBennie (virtual memorial)

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

June 19, 2020

Dear BAHP Friends and Family,

It is with extreme sadness we inform you that our much beloved President, Artistic Director and Co-founder (with late husband Oscar Nipper) Ms. Bennie Nipper peacefully passed away at her home on Monday, June 15, 2020.

Ms. Bennie taught drama for many years at Friendswood High School before fulfilling her dream of owning her own theatre.  Continuing to teach, she gave her tireless devotion to Harbour Theatre for over 25 years.

The Bay Area Harbour Playhouse will continue in her memory and once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, will honor her with a memorial tribute to celebrate her truly amazing life.

Thank you for your support of Bay Area Harbour Playhouse                    and Ms. Bennie.


Bay Area Harbour Playhouse Executive Board

Joe Edd Nelson, Vice-President                                                                                  Donn Joers, Secretary                                                                                                      Linda Rodriguez, Treasurer

In Memory of Ms. Bennie NipperBennie with dates

Bennie Nipper was a Texas theatre legend and the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Bay Area Harbour Playhouse. She peacefully passed away at her Houston home on June 15, 2020 with her caring friend Linda Rodriguez at her side.

Services: “A Virtual Tribute to Bennie Nipper” will be live streamed at 2:30 PM Central Time on Sunday, July 12, 2020.  Details on how to view the tribute will be posted on the Harbour Playhouse Website and on Facebook when details are available.  In the future the public will gather to honor and remember Bennie when it is safer to assemble in person.

Memorial Donations: Ms. Bennie was always thrilled when people patronized her theatre, bought season tickets, attended shows, enrolled in class and made charitable contributions. Those actions were significant in the continuing success of her dream. Should you wish to send an expression of sympathy, please consider a donation, in her honor, to Bay Area Harbour Playhouse, c/o Law Office of Oscar Nipper, 7654 Park Place Blvd, Houston, Texas 77087 or by using this link to donate using PayPal.  All donations to keep Ms. Bennie’s dream alive are greatly appreciated.

Ms. Bennie’s Dream

“To create a community theatre where many children, teens, and adults can participate in dramatic activities and stage productions and experience the wonderful feelings of discovery and self- worth.”

Creating and operating Bay Area Harbour Playhouse was the fulfillment of her life-long dream.  She had a true calling in life:  to teach and participate in the dramatic arts.  She never wanted to do anything else in life, and she did not want to stop.  But, with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, she said, “I wanted to do what I always had done without having to get up at 6 AM.”

Ms. Bennie’s Journey

Bennie Bernita Tapp was born October 1, 1928, in Terry, Texas, the youngest of 7 children born to Wallace and Frankie Tapp.  The Tapps moved to Houston after Bennie graduated from Brownfield High School in 1946. She attended the University of Houston, completed cosmetology school and worked in her sister’s beauty salon.  When she decided to attend Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas, known for its fine arts department, two things happened that set the course of her life.  Zula Pearson, a drama instructor at Lon Morris, inspired Bennie to become a theatre teacher. More importantly, Bennie met the love of her life Oscar Nipper.  They married in 1949 and were wed for 65 years until his death in 2014.

Bennie earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Lon Morris College, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Master of Education degrees from the University of Texas.  She began her high school teaching career in McAllen, Texas.  She also taught at Woodrow Wilson HS-Dallas, Texas and Shortridge HS-Indianapolis, Indiana. Returning to Houston in 1959, she taught at San Jacinto HS (1959-1970), Ross Sterling HS (1970-77), and Friendswood HS (1977-1991) for a total of 38 years. Her students won innumerable individual and one-act play contests, many at state UIL competitions.

Bennie performed and directed for the Austin Civic Theatre, the Indianapolis Circle of Players, as well as local venues: Pasadena Little Theatre, Clear Creek Country Theatre, College of the Mainland Arena Theatre, and San Jacinto College South Theatre.  She and Oscar were founding members helping to create Pasadena Little Theatre and Texas Non-Profit Theatres (TNT), a statewide association. She established the theatre troupe “Number 1 Plays and Players”, which performed at various sites for over a decade.   The Nippers were also founding members of the original national organization now known as the American Association of Community Theatres (AACT). Bennie acted, directed and taught classes with Nina Vance, renowned director and owner of the original Alley Theatre on Beale Street.

Bennie and Oscar enjoyed dancing and playing tennis. Oscar was a licensed pilot and they spent many hours together soaring through the skies.  Oscar loved convertibles. He and Bennie were often seen in Friendswood school and community parades with their convertible transporting a homecoming queen or city official.

Bennie was an accomplished singer and guitarist, having composed and recorded numerous songs under the Rainbow label.  She regularly wrote and submitted poems to the World of Poetry Association.  In 1989, her poem “West Texas Wind” was selected as the best submission.  Bennie read the poem to a Washington, DC audience of 3,000 that included Roddy McDowell, Jayne Meadows and Mickey Rooney.

Bennie’s dream for life after teaching was to establish her own non-profit community theatre and to continue teaching and directing, but in her own way in her own building. She wanted to provide a safe and non-threatening environment where participants learned an appreciation of the arts and beginners could become comfortable with themselves onstage-and off.  Bennie credits the Alley’s Nina Vance as her inspiration and the reason she wanted to become a theatre owner.  In 1990 she and Oscar bought an abandoned machine shop in Dickinson, Texas that originally housed the Hollywood Movie Theatre built in 1941.  They completed initial renovations and opened the Bay Area Harbour Playhouse, a community theatre which has continued under her artistic direction since its inception in 1991.

Bennie was a member of the Dickinson First United Methodist Church, the American Business Women’s Association and the Federation of Houston Professional Women.  She was a strong voice in the creation of the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce.

Bennie is survived by nieces, nephews and their families—and an infinite number of students, friends, neighbors, actors and audience members who learned from her, laughed with her and loved her so much. angel wings with b in heart

Thank you Judy Ahlhorn for this beautiful tribute to Ms. Bennie.

6 thoughts on “Ms. Bennie Nipper”

  1. In 1966, I had the pleasure of appearing with Bennie in an Alley Theater
    children’s production of WINNIE THE POOH. (She was a delightful
    “Piglet.”) The production was so well received that we performed additional evening performances where it attracted as many adult patrons as children. Then in the early 1990s, had a chance meeting with she and Oscar at an Astros game, which we viewed together.
    She spent the entire game excitedly telling me about the theater in Dickinson that she and Oscar had turned into a going concern.
    Her enthusiasm for the theater was just as passionate then as it
    had been back in the day when we had first met at The Alley.

    1. She was my first drama teacher at Friendswood High School her very first year! She was wonderful! She took us to state in 1980 with the performance of “Comedy of Error’s” where we won 3rd in state. I actually won a Best actress award at that time. First dramatic award I had ever won. God bless her and glad to to know she is with her husband Oscar.

  2. Thank you Ms. Nipper for teaching me to be brave and how to stand up for myself. See you in heaven.

    Sussie Ann Flores -Sutton

  3. My name is Charlotte and I had the pleasure of knowing Bennie when she brought her theater group to Harbourview care Center to do a short version of “a Christmas Carol” every year, she was so delightful to work with. After not seeing her for years, she was admitted to the nursing home I work at. She was still so full of life, just older. Thank you for honoring her at this time.
    Good luck with your theater.

  4. I got to work under Bennie’s direction at Pasadena Little Theater in numerous productions in the mid to late ’70’s. I loved her! She was so lively and happy, but no nonsense about the production. She just had a special way about her that made me feel loved and valued. I have thought of her so many times over the years as my life has taken me to New England and elsewhere outside of Texas. She is one of my role models of a Texas Lady. God Speed, Bennie Nipper!

  5. I am sorry for Ms. Bennie’s passing. She was a force to be reckoned with and a strong woman. I was blessed to have met her several seasons back and to have been asked to participate in several productions. She is missed. I am so happy I was able to meet her and be a tiny part of joy she created at Bay Area Harbour Playhouse.

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