For about 10 years from 2005's "And Then There Were None" I helped out with St John's Players, a drama group based in Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire. I started just visiting the plays, invited by my friends Mark and Barbara Ashton who were long-time attendees. Then, having read one of the "come help us" notices at the 2004 production of Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray", I thought it might be interesting to have a go.
I started off stage managing the Christmas Panto, which for St Johns was a one-night event pitched at the Theatre Club. My part then mainly meant opening and closing curtains; I was being assisted and there wasn't much to do anyway. However, for the next play I was more involved, and it was fun!
Getting to know the ropes was interesting; I have looked at what an SM does in a professional theatre and what we do isn't much like it. However, I have grown into it and evolved it somewhat: I often used webcams to "see round corners" so I'm not walking around all the time (the sets are often very cramped, and making noise would be bad), and on the last play several of the cast were finding that useful themselves.
I stage managed quite a few plays - Brideshead Revisited directed by Carole Ransom was my most complex, with an events script printed on 6 sheets of A3 - and I have also helped with set building, front of house management and general helper. In 2007 we staged "Round and Round the Garden" by Alan Ackbourn - it was great fun to do with enough to keep me busy without being frazzled. Here is a photo I took during play week of Dean and Barbara playing Tom and Ruth, respectively.
I also helped with production photography, creating many of the photographs used in promotional material and indeed once creating a photographic simulated 'painting' for use on set.
I also filmed several productions, producing properly titled DVDs of Table Manners and The Crucible.
On several occasions I was asked about taking part on-stage, but always refused to date; I'm happier behind (or indeed in front!) of the stage. My resolve did waver once... I asked whether I could have a walk-on part in one of the pantos, which was agreed to, but in the end I chickened out!
In 2007 I joined the committee as social secretary, and so for the 60th Anniversary of the group in early 2008 I helped organise our birthday party, which included a raffle, a quiz on past props, a slideshow of photos, a buffet lunch, a leaflet of members recollections, and various other mementos. We invited as many of the past members of the group as we could find and many old acquaintances were renewed that day. To gauge numbers and cover meal costs, we issued tickets which I designed - a scan of one is shown here.
I started to scale back my involvement somewhat in 2011 when it seemed likely I would need to move house, and although I did not in the end do that I never regained the enthusiasm needed, and my last
St Johns started out in the Hall associated with St John's Church on Hills Road, and has been producing plays since the mid 1950s, normally 3 every year. It was forced to move out of the Hall when the hall was closed, and took up residence in the Townley Hall, Fulbourn.