RAISING THE CURTAIN #2: “Why Amateur Theatre?” by Maureen Sullivan

I lived without amateur theatre for many years….but never lost my love for it.

As a youngster, I auditioned for school plays and went on to join in a few musicals during my college years, but it was my first teaching job which plunged me straight into the theatrical world. On interview, I tried to say the right things to impress the Headmaster and Head of English, but just enjoyed a casual chat with the guy tasked with escorting interviewees around the school, who introduced himself as Allan Stronach, Head of Drama….

Until I got the job, and half an hour into my first day, the lovely Allan approached me, reminded me that I had said I was interested in drama (had I??) and asked me to get involved in the school play – what could I say?? I later found the Head of English had no recollection of anything I’d said at interview….

That school play was Bugsy Malone – we were one of the first schools to put that show on: it was chosen specifically to tempt the ‘cool lads’ to get on stage – and they did! How could they turn down the chance to run around with a spurge gun, dressed as a gangster?

From there I got more and more involved and learned how theatre can raise confidence, build character and rapport – and be tremendous fun! The culmination was the school staging the Amateur Premiere of Godspell – a midnight matinee, just to make sure we were the first! I stage managed, and clearly recall a rehearsal in the school hall, attended just by the director (Allan), the musical director, myself – and Robert, who played Jesus, singing the final song on the cross. And we were all in tears….such is the power of theatre.

So when Allan asked me to help set up a local youth theatre – I was working at a different school then so we were able to involve both sets of students – I had to say yes, and Elstree Youth Theatre was born. Not only can I remember clearly the shows, and the fun we had, but some of the members are still friends.

And that’s the other thing about amateur theatre – it’s not just about what happens onstage – it’s about the friendships that develop during rehearsals. It’s about evenings like the one when after an Elstree Youth Theatre rehearsal for ‘John Paul George Ringo…and Bert’ (yes – it’s about the Beatles…) several of us went for fish and chips and ended up round someone’s house chatting till about 2am. I offered some cast members a lift home in my car, only to be stopped by a policeman, who rather patronisingly said ‘We’re out a bit late, aren’t we love? Where are you going?’ I was in my early twenties at the time, but still…love??

92481750_2270402046603083_5139229060324392960_nHowever, before I could reply, a voice from the back seat announced: ‘She’s taking us home. I’m Paul McCartney – that’s Ringo in the front and we’ve just dropped John Lennon off….’ Before the copper could arrest us on suspicion of being under the influence, a show poster was thrust in his hand with a request to display it in the station. He let us go on our way….

My hiatus from the theatre was due to bringing up three children – you can’t really go to rehearsals three times a week with young children to look after – but once the youngest was at uni, I rediscovered my favourite hobby here on the Island – and have made so many amazing friends and had so much fun….I can’t wait to get back to it once things get back to normal….whatever normal is in theatreland….

This is the second in a series of “Raising The Curtain” posts, thank you Maureen!

If you would like to share an Island theatre story, to reminisce, let us know. We look forward to sharing your contributions.

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