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Village Music & Drama

How to stage   a play . . . in 8 steps

Posted on July 03 2005 at 3:35:30 0 comments

Wizard of Oz

Alvechurch Dramatic Society’s Chris Davies takes us through the essential elements involved in putting on a play.

Alvechurch Dramatic Society is on the hunt for new members. Best get that out in the open straight away, I think.

You’re still reading? Good. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Alvechurch Dramatic what?”, then where have you been for the past 57 years?

Yep, we really have been going that long! If you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds intriguing” – and I’m sure you are – your next thought might well be, “What’s it all about then, and how do I get involved?”

Or it could be, “I’ve had enough of this, where’s the letters page?”

If it’s the former, then you’re in luck. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is our easy cut-out-and-lose-only-to-find-it-three-months-later-when-looking-for-your-passport guide to how Alvechurch Dramatic Society puts on a play, in eight easy steps…

1. Finding a play to produce
Sometimes a piece of cake, sometimes rather more tricky. The show needs to be suitable in terms of cast size and type (choruses of thousands are, for the moment, out).

It also needs to be something that we think our audience will enjoy (this is, after all, the point of the exercise!).

In recent years, the Society has produced a variety of shows, including a comic pastiche (Daisy Pulls it Off); a murder mystery (A Murder is Announced); a family show (The Wizard of Oz); a drama (A Warwickshire Testimony) and a classic comedy (Present Laughter).

Most recently, we performed Michael Frayn’s hilarious selection of short plays observing the trials and tribulations of modern life, Alarms and Excursions. Next up, we are planning a pantomime for the end of November, our first panto since Beauty and the Beast five years ago. Oh yes we are.

2. Finding someone to direct the play
If you thought step one was tricky, it’s got nothing on this one. The normal process of selecting a director is that everyone in the Society runs away or looks at the floor when the subject is raised, until one brave (or foolhardy) soul breaks the silence with a “Well, maybe. . .” and is immediately pounced on (in the nicest possible way) by grateful associates.

Now, if there is anyone out there thinking they might fancy a stab at directing a play or two, they will be welcomed with open arms and quite possibly a cash bribe, believe me. 

3. Rehearsals
In which the director shuffles various cast members around the stage – and usually back again – whilst asking them to speak with “a bit more passion. No, not that much,” and so on.

Also an opportunity for bouts of hilarity as cast members accidentally fall off chairs or detect all manner of innuendo in apparently innocent lines.

Rehearsals take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the run-up to productions. For the autumn panto, they will start in September.

4. Post-rehearsal discourse
Very important, this. Members of the Society repair to a local watering hole to discuss how things are going and other matters of great import.

If the director is absent (or at the bar), this might be an opportunity to indulge in a spot of whinging about how daft it is that they are being asked to perform that handstand in the middle of Act 2.

Most planning of future social events (such as theatre trips, beer & skittles, barbecues, race nights, quizzes and so on) is, perhaps not surprisingly, done in the pub.

5. Design and build of sets and props
It’s not just about acting, you know. Where would we be without those members who design the set and certain essential props, and take the lead in constructing the same?

Up a certain creek without a certain implement, that’s where. The Society couldn’t do without people who are ‘good with their hands’ because, let’s face it, most of us don’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other.

If you’d like to get involved in this sort of way, we’d love to see you at our new members night, or at any other time. Backstage members are especially important at step 4, to stop things from getting too ‘luvvie’!

6. Sound and lighting provision
Another fundamental corps within the society. These hardy souls are consigned to the ‘lighting box’ – a delightful euphemism for the shoebox-sized crow’s nest at one end of the Village Hall.

From this eyrie the show is lit and provided with its necessary sound and other special effects. Great fun if you like setting off explosions and manipulating spotlights. . .

‘Techies’ are especially respected by other members of the Society who are painfully aware of the power held by someone who could, if they wanted to, turn the lights out on you during your ‘big speech’. . .

7. Performing
Ah, the crux of the matter – finally it’s time for the actors to strut their stuff on stage, and to run around in a panic backstage looking for that vital prop that’s temporarily gone missing.

This is where the vital help of the stage manager and backstage crew is, well – vital. Not to mention those members working ‘front of house’ to ensure that tickets are checked, programmes sold, tea and coffee dispensed and the raffle drawn without too many fights breaking out. 

8. After the show
Time to relax and have a drink or two – before starting all over again! Post-play inquests are especially entertaining, as everyone tries to work out how we got away with missing out half the script and paraphrasing the rest so that “My lord, your presence is requested with the utmost urgency” ends up as “Oy, come with me, quick!” Only joking. 

Now, has that whetted your appetite at all? Of course it has! What you need to know is that we will be holding a New Members Night on Thursday September 8 at Alvechurch Village Hall, starting at 8pm.

If you are interested in getting involved in any capacity, then we’d be delighted to see you. No previous experience is necessary – just a willingness to get stuck in and get the beers in later on.

You don’t have to leave it ‘til then of course – you can give us a ring anytime on 0121 447 7071, or come down to the Village Hall on any Thursday from September 1. Hope to see you soon, dahlings. . .

Above: Kelly Harrington as the Cowardly Lion, Adam Brown as the Tinman, Fiona Holmes as Dorothy and Chris Davies as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (2003).


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