It all began in a period called Interregnum, or more easily understood “Vacancy”- when the incumbent of a church leaves and the congregation are left to cope as well as they can (with help of course), until a new vicar is appointed-usually at least 12 months.
“Any ideas about doing something to involve as many people as possible in the next year or so?” asked the chair of PCC. Various suggestions were made including some sort of concert or stage show……..
And so St. Michael’s Players was born.
When I told my husband, he suggested we could write a pantomime, so we did! Priscilla Ryan also helped with the writing. That was the easy bit- then we had to find enough people to take part, someone to produce, someone to be responsible for costumes, stage sets, make up, music and so on. Offers poured in- until we were left with just the producing/directing-which eventually Mike Ryan & I volunteered , and Cinderella became our first production in 1989.
With stage made from some old pallets from the local cider company, some very elderly curtains, an ingenious backdrop which could come apart or be turned to produce different scenes and by making sure we had “front of curtain” scenes to give the stage hands time to change them-we made what I think was a good show-albeit learning from our mistakes along the way.
For example, we learnt not to have costume changes where the actors had to go off and come back off almost immediately and we had to contend with our two principles rather sheepishly coming to tell me they were both pregnant which required the costume department to let their costumes out gradually!
Subsequently, we had all enjoyed it so much, and many people said how nice it was to have something to do on a dismal Sunday afternoon when we rehearsed through the winter, so even after our new vicar arrived we decided that Pantomime should become a biennial event with concerts or other productions in between-which happened until 2015 when the current producer (still me) and other members primarily backstage decided their aching limbs and general decrepitude couldn’t manage any longer!
For our second venture we were again joined by co-writer, Priscilla, and by then having learnt from our mistakes and made a little money to improve staging, we began to look at proper staging, and a more professional production emerged.
Over the years we enjoyed Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty & the Beast, and many more traditional titles until our final production Dick Turpin.
We only ever repeated one-Cinderella, and over the years as well as the enthusiastic casts and backstage hands, we encouraged several people who became semi or professional- One who formed her own repertory company, a young man who went on to work as Professional Lighting expert with The Alan Aykbourne Theatre Company before going freelance.
Several Players joined Somerset Amateur Operatics, The Wayfarers and other amateur companies, and finally a young woman who is currently waiting to go to College to study music and drama worked her way up from the time she could sing in the chorus to principal parts.
We also invented our own “GAFTAs”, which gave us an excuse for a party!
Pantomime has brought a great deal of pleasure to many people both at St, Michael’s and in the community, and raised over £14000 during the years we played. We always intended that apart from taking sufficient to keep in funds and support St. Michael’s, any profits should be shared with local, national & international charities and it was always a pleasure to be able to support these.
Sadly in 2016 we decided that as many of us approached or went over our 70’s even although we always managed to get younger people into taking to the stage, it was time to call it a day as no one came forward to take on the “behind the scenes” stuff.
We continue to offer concerts most years and are nurturing some young talent as well as “old hands”, so if anyone feels able to offer the time, energy & commitment now might be the time to step up! Plenty of us could offer support and the “wisdom of years”, we have a wonderfully adaptable building and at least some eager participants as well as a stack of scripts which could be adapted!
Written by Ann Goddard