Category: Spotlight

HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Throughout the years Abbey Foregate(SURC) Drama Group has donated to various charities by means of money raised through the nightly raffle at productions. The group is extremely grateful for the generosity of our audiences and since 2010 we have raised £12,548 for charities.

Our  production in November 2023 was ENCHANTED APRIL  and  our chosen charity was  MIND Due to the generosity of our audiences we were able to raise £589 for this very worthwhile cause.

The chosen charity for our May 2023 production of  AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was the Migraine Trust and we were able to donate £522 to this wonderful cause.

Our November 2022  production of  STEEL MAGNOLIAS had the subject matter of Diabetes and the group decided that Diabetes UK, Shrewsbury Kids Group would be our chosen charity. They are a small group of volunteers who aim to provide an opportunity for families of young children with diabetes to network with each other through various events held throughout the year. These events provide a relaxed and fun environment in which young people living with Type 1 diabetes and their families can get together, share experiences and learn from each other.
They have held fundraising events in the past and have some funds available going forward and will hold more events now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased. But if they are to achieve all their aims they can only do this by raising funds and by the generous support of organisations and individuals. The amount that was raised at the STEEL MAGNOLIAS raffle was £604 which will be greatly appreciated by the group and we thank you all for your support. We presented a cheque for this amount at the children’s Christmas party on 4th December 2022 at Pontesbury Village Hall.

WAITING IN THE WINGS

This expression alludes to the theatre.

It is an area unseen by the audience, where actors wait for their cue to come on stage. The wings are areas that are part of a stage deck but offstage (out of sight of the audience). The wing space is also used for storage of sets for scenery changes , props and as a backstage work area.

WAITING IN THE WINGS can also mean

Close by in the background; available at short notice, ready to do something or to be used at the appropriate time and to take the place of another person.
i.e.: My assistant is waiting in the wings to take my job once I retire.

Many actors have a nightmare close to a performance and the one below is no exception……………………

It is a scene that has often come into my mind, both sleeping and waking — I am standing in the wings of a theatre waiting for my cue to go onstage. As I stand there, I can hear the play proceeding, and suddenly it dawns on me that the lines I have learnt are not in this play at all but belong to quite a different one. Panic seizes me; I wonder frenziedly what I should do. Then I get my cue. Stumbling over the unfamiliar scenery, I make my way onto the stage, and then look for guidance to the prompter, whose head I can just see rising out of the floorboards. Alas he only signals helplessly to me, and I realise of course that his script is different from mine. I begin to speak my lines, but they are incomprehensible to the other actors and abhorrent to the audience, who begin to hiss and shout: “Get off the stage!” “Let the play go on!” “You’re interrupting!”

Malcolm Muggeridge

Thank goodness it is just a nightmare!

ENTERTAING AUDIENCES SINCE 1947

The year 2022 marks a tremendous milestone for the Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary. The group traces its roots to 1947, when performances began at the Abbey Foregate Congregational Church. In those early days the members were from the congregation, and the plays had a religious theme. It was in 1950 that the group looked to perform mainstream plays and their first production was “The Importance of being Earnest.” The Church joined with the St Nicholas Presbyterian Church in 1975 and became known as Shrewsbury United Reformed Church (SURC).

The Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group is well loved by locals with a passion for amateur dramatics, whether that be soaking up the limelight onstage or enjoying the performance from the safety of the auditorium. St Nicholas Hall is where the majority of productions are staged and the introduction of raked seating on three sides places the audience close to the action, which provides an intimate theatrical experience

From its early modest beginnings the group has continued to grow and welcome new members both from within the church and from outside. Throughout the years the group has garnered many awards and festival prizes, has earned rave reviews, and now has a membership of well over forty, acting and non-acting. Up until the start of the pandemic at the beginning of 2020, we regularly performed two productions a year.

Profits from early productions were modest, which contrasts to today’s healthy financial situation. The group is now able to donate to a range of charities due to the kindness of the audiences and since 2010 has risen over £9,000.

In 2012 An indication of the group’s reputation was illustrated by being one of the few amateur organisations nationally granted the licence to perform “Calendar Girls”. We stepped out of our comfort zone and into The Walker Theatre at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn to put on a highly successful and sell out production. It is hoped that we might venture there again next year with a production, albeit a year late, to celebrate our 75th Anniversary. It is yet to be decided what the play will be, so watch this space!

Loyalty and continuity have ensured that the group has survived the fluctuating fortunes that challenge Societies up and down the country. If you would like to be part of our continuing illustrious history, as we celebrate this magical milestone, you can find out how to join by getting in touch by our Contact page.

 

 

TO PROMPT OR NOT TO PROMPT ?

Like a tightrope walker who knows he may not need the safety net, but feels safer in the knowledge that it is there, so some actors feel the need have a net of their own. It is not one the audience will see, but it is one that, if used, they will hear.

It is, of course… er…’

The prompt……………..’   

‘What?’

  (Louder)                 

‘THE PROMPT’………….!!

The prompter (sometimes prompt) in a theatre is a person who prompts or cues actors when they forget their lines or neglect to move on the stage to where they are supposed to be situated.

In truth, there is nothing better than knowing your lines. I do not just mean in an ‘Oh, I knew this yesterday,’ kind of way, but an ‘I know these lines so well, they’re almost part of me’. For an actor, learning the lines is where you start not where you finish. It is the least a paying audience deserves. It is only when books are down, faces lifted out of scripts and eye contact made that  the real work can begin with your fellow actors, and relationships built.

A 19th-century prompter at work.

If you have ever taken a prompt, you will know the feeling. The lurch of the heart as the words fail you and the seemingly eternal wait for the prompt to notice. The look of panic in the eyes of your fellow cast members. What do they do, cover for you, and wait for the line to come? The scene becomes a frozen tableau of inaction, everyone waiting for something to happen.

An audience may tolerate a prompt or two ( it happens to the best of professional actors). They feel embarrassed for you, nervous that you will do it again. Perhaps even, dare I say it, disappointed? Far better to know your lines so well, that you can recite them in your sleep (actually, reciting them as you fall asleep is often a good way to make them stick – you will be surprised by how much is retained in the morning). Far better for you and your cast members to know the play so well that, should the worst happen, you can get back on track. The greatest thing a rehearsal process can bring to a cast is the feeling of trust.

Directors; be brave. Tell your cast from the first rehearsal, that they will be performing without a prompt. Tell them they will not need it, and then see how hard they work to fulfil your prophecy. They will amaze themselves.

Remember, your audience want you to succeed.

Why not reward them by doing just that?

Richard Nicholas James

 

BREAK A LEG DARLING, YOU’LL BE FABULOUS!

THE ORIGINS OF ‘BREAK A LEG’

Why do they say, “Break a Leg “in Theatre?

If you have been to a theatre performance, odds are you have heard the term “break a leg,” and maybe even used it to wish performers good luck. It may seem odd, but in the theatre world, saying “good luck” is considered to bring bad luck. There are numerous ideas about the origin of the phrase. One story says spirits wreak havoc on your wishes and make the opposite happen. Another comes from ancient Greece, where the audience did not clap but instead stomped their feet to show appreciation. If the audience stomped long enough, they would break a leg. Some say the term originated during Elizabethan times when, instead of applause, the audience would bang their chairs on the ground — and if they liked it enough, the leg of the chair would break. 

Bowing or Curtsying

The term “break a leg” may refer to a performer bowing or curtsying to the audience in the metaphorical sense of bending one’s leg to do so. The saying could originally express the hope that an enthusiastic audience repeatedly calls for further bows or encores. This might cause a performer to “break” the leg line. Much earlier in stage history, when superstition had a less frightening hold on the craft, actors and their followers used a more gracious greeting: “May you break your leg,” by which it was meant that the evening’s performance would be of such grandeur that the actor would be obliged to break his leg – that is, bend his knee – in a deep bow acknowledging the audience’s applause.

The Performer Breaking the Leg Line

The most common theory refers to an actor breaking the “leg line” of the stage. The edge of a stage just beyond the vantage point of the audience forms a line, imaginary or actually marked, which is called the “leg line,” named after a type of concealing stage curtain: a leg. For an unpaid stand-by performer to cross or “break” this line would mean that the performer was getting an opportunity to go onstage and be paid; therefore, “break a leg” might have shifted from a specific hope for this outcome to a general hope for any performer’s good fortune.

Evidently, in the days of early vaudeville, the producers would book more performers than could possibly perform in the given time. In order to ensure that the show did not start paying people who do not actually perform, there was a general policy that a performer was NOT paid unless they actually performed on-stage. Nowadays the term is used to wish an actor all the very best for a good performance and a successful run. No matter which version you choose to believe well wishes are always appreciated and as amateur performers, we still use the term. Invariably, producers, directors and fellow cast members pop their heads around dressing-room doors for a quick chat and a cheery,

“Break a Leg Darling, You’ll be Fabulous”

ZOOM WITH A VIEW

March Madness

Abbey Drama were mid-rehearsal when the first lockdown was announced. The news headlines were reporting a new SARS-like virus that reportedly came from the livestock meat markets of Wuhan .

In mid-March 2020, our group along with the rest of the UK , were legally obliged to commit to lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. “Hands, face, space” became the mantra as we rubbed our hands raw with alcohol gels and donned smile-hiding face masks to attend to the only permitted activity of buying essentials. We stopped hugging, and helping strangers out, and even shaking hands was disallowed. It became an alien world, like something from the movies. Except that it wasn’t, it was our lives, our community, and our Drama Group.

Of course, we all took it all in our stride, thinking that worst case scenario, the production dates might be pushed back a tad.  Personally, I plunged myself into this altered reality with more than a pinch of disbelief at what was happening, little knowing that 16 months on, I would still be unable to meet up with friends in the rehearsal space, or any other space for that matter.

Embracing The New

As it became crystal clear that everything was going to be anything but clear for the foreseeable, a collective from Abbey Drama decided to reconvene on a Monday evening to oxymoronically “meet remotely” via Zoom or Skype (other video conferencing software is available). In addition to the popular productions that the group are so well known for, the Ab Drams have always enjoyed regular play-readings as a group and of course, this lends itself well to video conferencing. In a heartbeat, we were off, and we started with David Muncaster’s Community Spirit.

“You’re Still on Mute!”

Everyone was new to video call meetings back then and much hilarity ensued as we tried to log on, puzzled over strange camera angles, and failed to take ourselves off mute again, and again, and again. But we soon left the technical hitches in the ditches and what joy to see those familiar faces and hear the tones of those voices we knew so well. Not every Ab Dram member has joined in, but everyone is welcome and in fact, we have embraced fellow thespians from other drama groups who now make up a vibrant part of our happy throng. “Monday evening play reading” sounds clichéd, perhaps Alan Bennet would like to produce a script bearing the title.

The Zoom Womb

Since that first Zoom play-reading in March 2020 we have read upwards of 30 scripts including The Constant Wife (W Somerset Maugham), The Cherry Orchard (Anton Chekhov), Steel Magnolias (Robert Harling) and The Vicar of Dibley (Richard Curtis, Paul Mayhew-Archer) naming a few to illustrate that the plays are wide and varied. We also read a script that one of our members had written.

But more than getting to know the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of plays that are out there we got to connect with others. During the unsettling and ever-extending days of social restriction, we created a virtual space that was warm, welcoming, nurturing and nourishing. A Zoom womb if you like.

It has been a difficult time for many, but Ab Dram has continued to see and connect with its members albeit through the portals of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computer screens. We have laughed, shared, checked up on one another and managed to maintain some sense of normality in these unprecedented times.

We have shared our thoughts on the plays we read and how they relate to today. We have giggled at and embraced dodgy accents and mispronunciations. There is no judgement in our group, the laughter is shared. This is a safe space to try out early attempts at an accent or dialect and sometimes the outcomes are truly hilarious but there is no malice and absolutely no pressure on anyone to attempt any accent. You read as you want to read. Or you can choose to tune in as a silent member and enjoy the experience of what is a rough approximation of an unedited Radio 4 drama. We have debated the merits (and otherwise) of various plays and pondered the potential of putting them on as a group in the future. We have also shared in passing what is happening in our own individual lockdown lives and smiled at the on-screen faces of those we haven’t seen in person for over a year. It has been so much more than a regular play reading group.

Future Freedoms.

I wonder if our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will allow us into the rehearsal space and welcome our lovely audiences back into the less-than-socially-distanced seating area of our theatre any time soon?

I hope so.

Oh, but I shall so miss our Zoom play readings when they come to an end.

Perhaps it is the languid, lazy part of me that enjoys barely having to move two feet to plug in, recline in my own chair with my current drink of choice, slippers on and script to hand. There really is something quite comforting about engaging with the Ab Drams whilst faintly hearing my family in the next room watching TV and then having the dog wander up occasionally for a quick tummy tickle. Social convention falls by the wayside during unprecedented times and whilst I have not logged in wearing hair curlers yet, I am very relaxed about what I’m wearing and there has been at least one incident of members wearing pyjamas. You see, despite being remote, our play-readings are homely, warm, and intimate.

Perhaps Zoom will continue to be part of the organisation in one form or another.

That said, I can’t wait to see everyone in the flesh again, to move in the space and see great writing in action.

So finally, whilst reflecting on our Zoom play-readings with great affection, as we approach the end of the third and hopefully last lockdown, I am looking forward in great anticipation that maybe, just maybe, we will be back strutting the SURC’s boards very soon.

Symantha Simcox   July 2021

 

AMATEUR DRAMATICS, HERE I COME!

Joining a  local Amateur Dramatic Society was always on my list of things to do. I had been thinking about doing it for a while but kept putting it off, but then….

We all need a hobby. However, when we want to do something different it is difficult to find someone else to come along with you, so you just give up. That is what happened to me. However, I dealt with the problem directly and joined my local Am – Dram Group. In plain English, Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group.

However, was it the right decision?

DEFINITELY!

Well for starters, it’s a lot of fun. The group are lovely and friendly. In addition, they are all different ages. So I did not feel out of place. Some work full time, a few are retired, and others have been acting for so long they cannot remember a time when they haven’t ‘Trod the boards’ so to speak.

So I thought, ‘Why not?’ In for a penny…..! So, after sending the email, I arranged to go down to their rehearsal room for my first sojourn into acting! The first night I ventured into the rehearsal room, I was terrified! But, everybody was so nice.  So far so good!

The first thing I noticed was how easy it all was. In fact everyone there is so laid back and has a great sense of humour. Making a fool of yourself is part of the fun!

Was it worth joining?

 OH, YES!

For anyone who really wants to act, work behind the scenes or just generally help, just contact us. We will welcome you warmly with open arms, so don’t be nervous, we are all in it together, helping each other out.

Oh, and  did I  tell you, its GREAT FUN!

PASS THE CAKE

Pass the Cake.

I joined the Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group because  I saw a production that was of such stunningly high quality, I wanted a piece of THAT CAKE. The production was of such high quality in terms of acting, directing, stage set, lighting, and costume. Staged in a church hall that was anything but a church hall, being transformed as it was into one of Oscar Wilde’s elegant interiors, on a small thrust stage with raked seating for 100 transported audience members. I was massively impressed, and I was only able to witness the dress rehearsal because all of the actual shows had already sold-out weeks ago. Don’t take my word for it; check us out as soon as you are able.

Our foundation is community based, supportive, and respectful of others and welcoming and I am more than happy to be part of that. We are passionate about our productions, committed to telling the writer’s story and great fun to work with. We are simply kind, compassionate, creative folk who just happen to love putting on a show and are really quite good at it!

However, one should never pass up the opportunity to encourage membership enquiries from young blood and from as diverse a background as is possible in our lovely Shropshire backwater.

So, do you WANT SOME DRAMA IN YOUR LIFE?

Whatever your interest in the theatre is, you will receive a warm welcome at Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group.   Whether you want to tread the boards, develop your artistic skills or just make some new friends, there will be something for you to enjoy. We are always delighted to talk to anyone wishing to learn and take part in all aspects of drama. Perhaps you would like to try your hand at some of the many backstage roles – lighting, props, costumes, make-up, and front of house. In addition, we hold play readings, workshops, theatre visits and social events throughout the year.

INTERESTED? Please get in touch.

 WE GENUINELY WANT YOU TO JOIN US.

 

 

ACT 1 BEGINNERS PLEASE !

But wait!

-where are the lights? We often take lighting for granted but the more you know about lighting the more you can engage your audience and impress them with a memorable experience. Learning about stage lighting sometimes seems a mystery to those of us who Tread the Boards, so to speak. Lighting design and technology can seem like black magic with all its strange terminology and jargon.
As a Drama Group, we were very fortunate to obtain a grant, which we used to purchase our own lighting rig and kit. Knowing what was required was beyond our knowledge and we only knew what to purchase because a young man of fourteen advised us!

Who is the young man you ask?
His name is Tom Mulliner and we at Abbey Foregate (SURC) Drama Group were very fortunate to obtain Tom’s expertise in lighting. He had always been involved in lighting school musicals and offered to work with us on our productions. A young man with such talent was always going far in his chosen profession and after lighting approximately eight plays Tom was off to college to gain more knowledge.

He is now based in Ipswich and working professionally as a lighting programmer. Tom’s work takes him far and wide to many venues around the world and to date he has worked in over 130 theatres! The more recent productions he has worked on are Tell Me On a Sunday (UK Tour), Be More Chill (West end), &Juliet (West end), Leopoldstadt (West end), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Sao Paulo) and Titanic (UK Tour).
Catching up with Tom, he informed me that the past fifteen months have been very quiet in terms of theatre work. It is now starting to pick up again and he is currently working on ANYTHING GOES at the Barbican, which opened on Friday 23rd July 2021.
Tom was so pleased that we have productions in the pipeline for the future and” hopes they go well and the group go back to doing what they do best!”
As I mentioned before a young man with such talent was always going to go far in his chosen profession and that is what has happened to Tom. We are so proud that in his early days he worked with us on our productions and send him all our thanks and best wishes for the future.

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