Performance days arrive all too quickly and on these evenings other members take up their duties in the front-of-house team, taking tickets, showing people to their seats, serving drinks and selling raffle tickets. It's all great fun and a more friendly society I've yet to find. (from Rob Pearson)

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I COULDN'T LEARN ALL THOSE LINES

People often say that when I mention amateur dramatics, but I suspect what many of them mean is they wouldn't want to. Yes, learning lines can be a bit of a chore but the rewards definitely make the slog worthwhile. What rewards? Well, obviously the applause. The public performances are what we work towards and it's a great feeling when you know you've done a good job and the audience shows their appreciation. But there's a lot more to it than that.

Until a few years ago I'd had no experience whatsoever of being on the stage. However, I enjoy creative writing and I wanted to have a go at play writing. So when I retired, I signed up to be a villager in a local panto to get some insider knowledge. Well, it was a revelation to discover just how many people were involved in putting on that one pantomime: actors, directors, producers, technicians, backstage crew and front of house team, all working together and supporting each other to provide the best possible panto. What a privilege to be part of such a fantastic team. And it was so much fun - I couldn't wait to get to rehearsals each week. I'll never forget the mixture of excitement and terror I felt as I waited for the curtain to open on the first night, nor the overwhelming feel-good factor at the end. I decided to forget about the writing and do the acting instead.

THE INSIDE STORY

HELPING OFFSTAGE

So what's it like to be one of those of our members who don't ever appear on stage but whose contributions are so vital to our performances? Well, there's all the work necessary behind the scenes to build and light the set and ensure that the actors have all the appropriate props from drinking glasses to mobile phones and frozen sausages. Then there's all those sound cues from mowing machines to songbirds. All have to be prepared and triggered at just the right moment. The technical crew get involved in regearsals from the earliest stages, planning, preparing and watching how the director is guiding the presentation of the play. Photographs are needed too for the programmes, which have to be designed and prepared.

...all the appropriate props from drinking glasses to mobile phones and frozen sausages...

Set-build day is one of hard work and enormous fun. The large scenery sections (called flats in theatre-speak) have to be wallpapered, painted and screwed into position according to the set designer's plan. Dodging between those engaged in the set build are the lighting crew running up and down ladders moving floodlights, hard-edged spotlights and softer spotlights called Fresnels.

Slowly the set takes shape and in the ensuing days the actors rehearse frequently, getting used to the feel of the set, and where the entrances and exits are.

 

When I joined WCDS in 2015 I was delighted to find a group of similar people with that same camaraderie and enthusiasm for staging the best possible production whilst having as much fun as possible. Our productions are usually comedies so there's no shortage of laughs during rehearsals, and there are brilliant facilities at the hall, with a permanent stage, large changing area and easy parking. Again, it's a privilege to be part of it all.

There's also the opportunity to write a one-act play for the Chairman's Challenge, which prompted me to write again. I was fortunate enough to win and I decided to have a go at directing as well. Again, I was overwhelmed by everyone's support and the effort they put in to make it a success. These one-act plays also give people a chance to try out their acting skills on a smaller scale. Which brings me to:

'I'd worry that I'd forget my lines.'

Well, it does happen, but not as often as you might think, and it's not the end of the world. There's always someone prompting, and the audience are there to be entertained, not give a critique on the actors' performances - they know it's not the Old Vic. So, to anyone thinking of joining an amdram society, whether acting or otherwise, I'd say WCDS has an awful lot to offer. (from Jean Trew)

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