People often ask me the best way to meet new people in their silver years. Maybe their partner has recently died and they’re looking for a way to reconnect with the world of singlehood. Or perhaps they have divorced and are trying to find something fun to do. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of people out there recently single and ready for entertainment, just not quite sure what road to walk down to get it.
Benjamin Franklin once said that “the art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing”. Steve McQueen and Katharine Hepburn both commented on its childishness. What none of them pointed out – and yet what is undoubtedly true – is that acting, or getting involved with an amateur theatrical society, is a great way to meet people, get out of your comfort zone and start having some fun again.
People often recoil when they hear those two dread syllables – “Am Dram”. The thoughts turn irresistibly to bungled entrances, howlingly inappropriate casting and dropped lines. But of course that’s only the worst case scenario. In reality, plenty of amateur theatrical groups put on very good performances of very good plays.
You don’t even have to be into acting to get involved. All you have to do is like the theatre. Amateur theatrical societies need publicity agents; they need stage hands; they need front of house managers; they need bar staff; and they need effects teams. From set building to selling tickets, there’s something for everyone to do – and if you love the idea of the stage you’ll find something rewarding in there.
Take the reading committee, for example. How do you think the plays that get performed, get chosen? A dedicated team of theatre enthusiasts come up with a shortlist of appropriate plays, read them all, and then have a good spirited argument about which one should be performed – usually with the result that all of them get scrapped, and the group ends up putting on something that Frank or Mary once saw that was very good, and may possibly have had Sir John Gielgud in.
Then there’s the publicity campaign. A budding artist with a flair for typesets can have a ball with the poster campaign for an am dram production. Design, wording, drawing, photography or just good old clip art – whatever your forte, your local acting society needs you.
All of which brings us, rather circuitously, to the director’s and producer’s chairs. Directing and producing require an esoteric combination of patience, vision and barefaced chutzpah – the ability, in other words, to tackle a job with the foreknowledge that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Simultaneously terrifying and enjoyable, both roles will make or break a budding Rylance – and they’ll certainly leave you wondering how you ever thought you had too much time on your hands!
From The Beggar’s Opera to the actual opera; and from Jesus Christ, Superstar to Jerusalem – the world of the theatre is an all-enveloping one. Have a look at a few of the links below to find out more:
Am Dram UK: the resource for all amateur theatrical societies in the UK. Includes calls for extras in West End productions!
Sedos: one of the capital’s most respected amateur drama companies.
Amateur Theatre Directory: another good all round resource for the amateur drama enthusiast, including a directory of every current society and group.
Or you can Ask Granny, the online resource for grandparents.