To Join Or Not To Join….. Marie’s thoughts after her first year with the Progressive Players

15th November 2022 Progressive Players News
To Join Or Not To Join….. Marie’s thoughts after her first year with the Progressive Players Share This Entry:

To Join Or Not To Join… This is not a question you’ll ever need to ask yourself about The Progressive Players. 30 years ago, I was a member of an amateur dramatics group and loved it. Then I moved house, and had been searching for a new group to join ever since. I’ve visited several over the years but to no avail:

  • One told me they feared I would be too good for them because I’d been involved in amateur dramatics before – they never even saw me act. Pretty impressive to take one look at me and decide I’d be giving Helen Mirren a run for her money!
  • One told me I’d have to do backstage jobs for a while, before I was allowed to try out for an actual acting part. I walked away wondering if there’d also be some kind of ‘acting’ initiation ceremony too…
  • One was having a rehearsal which I popped in to. I watched with utter disbelief as the alarmingly drunk director shouted at the cast using very choice language, and ricocheted off the walls in equal measure. I made my excuses and promptly left

So, for years I gave up looking. Then one day last year I drove past a sign for The Progressive Players, advertising for new members. ‘Oh hello,’ I thought, quickly followed by ‘Might be worth a look.’ I met up with my friend Sarah, who was also keen to find an amateur dramatics group, and we decided to go along to the next new members’ night. Diane (Membership Secretary) was lovely and welcoming. There was a group of us and we were given a tour of the theatre, then encouraged to ask questions. Sarah and I took the membership forms away with us to have a think – we’re menopausal women, we don’t make quick decisions – met up for a gin and decided to go for it. To use that well-worn cliché, the rest is history.

We went along to a play reading for My Brilliant Divorce (play readings happen frequently, and you’re welcome to join in whether you’d like to be involved in the play or not) then put our names in the infamous tin, to declare our interest in being involved with backstage roles. Within a couple of days we were contacted to ask if, together, we would stage manage the play. Our initial reaction was shock followed by panic, which were both swiftly replaced with yes! Neither of us had done this role before, but we were told that we’d be supported until we felt we knew what we were doing. And indeed we were by the lovely Jo, who gave up her time to go through everything with us and make sure we felt confident taking it on. We were a roaring success! We turned the lights on and off, queued the sound and light box, pestered the box office to chase everyone out of the toilets so we could start, and opened and closed the curtains with aplomb. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After our triumph in Stage Manager’s Corner, and having been made to feel so welcome, I decided to try out for an acting part in Breaking the Code. Amazingly I was cast in the play. It had been 30 years since I’d last acted on a stage and I was terrified. But I was given the chance I’d been starting to think I would never get again, and I loved every minute of it. My fellow cast members were great and by the end of the run I felt like a fully-fledged member, and more importantly I’d finally managed to find my way around the rabbit warren that is the backstage area! I can’t wait to do it all again. Sarah was also involved, taking on a role in wardrobe.

Finally, my most recent play: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. Sarah was the Assistant Director and it was my turn to shinny up and down the step ladder in the wardrobe department. If you want a physical workout, get yourself into wardrobe, lol! I worked with Gillian who was an absolute gift. We got on brilliantly and could often be heard from downstairs swearing or giggling, as we launched ourselves head first into the clothes rails searching for that elusive item in the size we needed. The wardrobe department is extensive to say the least, and it’s an absolute Aladdin’s cave of costumes and accessories. I’ve become a dab hand with pins, press studs, hooks & eyes and safety pins. It also requires you to think outside the box. Often you’ll find something and think: would that work with so-and-so’s outfit, how we can make it look more suitable, am I going to be able to take that hem up and will we ever find those perfect long socks we’re STILL looking for?!

In wardrobe you’ll pick out a costume, get the actor to try it on then send them down to the stage to see if it’s ok. Sometimes they come back with a ‘yes’, and sometimes it’s a ‘no’ or a ‘not quite right’, so off you’ll go again. But there’s no better feeling than assembling a costume, putting it on the actor then being told by the Director and Assistant Director that it’s perfect.

No matter how I’m involved with a play, I drive to the theatre with a grin on my face. This time around I spent the journey excited about diving once again into the Victorian dresses, pantaloons, frock coats and various adornments.

If you’re looking for an amateur dramatics group, I suggest you look no further than The Progressive Players. Since joining at the end of last year I’ve stage managed a play, served coffees, learned how to pull a pint behind the bar, acted, joined the Publicity Committee and am now fully immersed in the wardrobe department. I have been welcomed whole heartedly and encouraged every step of the way. A part of my life that I’d thought had finished has been well and truly re-ignited, and brought back to life.

So… what are you waiting for?

a Photograph of Marie helping an actor try on a costume.