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Chairs review 2022/23

Chairs Report July 2023 – Rob Dixon

I am delighted to be able to present this season’s chairs report.

This season we have had some great successes – four great productions, lots of new members, Nanda success, and a strong financial position - although Dawn will need to confirm that in the accounts for the year, but all the plays have made profits and the cash in the bank is there to be spent.

However, before getting into details and what we have learnts etc, I will start with a short reflection on Penny Lewin.

It is always sad to report on the death of a long serving member, and Penny was indeed that. She joined WBDS in 1999, when we were away in Austria for 2 years, and she often told me the story about how we were named “Robin Isi” – one person. Her first exposure to me, was coming to our garage to take away some old theatre chairs that had been stored there, while we were away. Unfortunately the mice had eaten them.

You will have hopefully read the short eulogy in Prompt extra regarding the active role that Penny played at WBDS – secretary, chair, actor, director, health and safety and dozens of other roles. She had a strong friendship with Sarah Banks – often being directed by Sarah or vice versa. And more recently appeared alongside Kristina or directed her in various plays including Mr Wonderful and Pyramus and Thisbe. Penny will be missed by many in WBDS.

Now I return to the rest of my year as chair. This is my third stint as Chair of WBDS. This season, started with Mother Courage. And I want to particularly thank Barbara for her innovative direction, and patience. It clearly paid off – not just the Nanda award for directing, but also turning a quite heavy and wordy, worthy play, into a thoroughly engaging piece that transformed the text into a great piece of drama – really well suited to our studio theatre setting.

The next play A Bunch of Amateurs was one that Craig was going to direct. When he had to step back, we reviewed several options and in the end, I directed this play. My first task was to read it, and then go and watch it for inspiration. I want to thank again my new cast, with 4 new members who played both large and smaller parts. I was also delighted to have Kathryn Tuddenham who managed to find and make and match 8 shakespeare costumes, and Jo and Charlie and Rosie who sourced and then managed 100 props. A fun play (not entered to Nanda for good reasons at the time)

Our third play was the delayed And Then There Were None – a set and play that had started in March 2020, just as the pandemic hit. Thanks to Anna, Andy, Kathryn (again) and the amazing cast, for creating a beautiful murderous world from the 1930s in our small theatre. Quite amazing fitting everyone on stage and coordinating all the action to fit so seamlessly. And on costumes, led by Kathryn, but working as a team with Anna, Charlie and Jan, created a Nanda award winning costume presentation; each cast member having three quality outfits from arrival, formal black tie dinner and departure.

And finally, Eurydice and Miles – another example of one director having to step back and another stepping up – thanks Malcolm. Buy tickets - its going to be amazing. Rehearsals are still under way for that, and I am biased as I’m in it, but another play that has been transformed by inspiration and technical ability. And what an inspiring set. This is being performed with Miles – so thanks to Amanda for leading this – and thanks for your work on play reading this year and helping to shape next season’s programme.

Our Tuesday nights seemed to start this season with a flourish – several new members turning, up, getting involved and helping out. We have continued with some interesting Radio play productions – thanks Andy, and the 5 minute play concept where you get to put on a play but try new technical roles – thanks Jerome.

Socially we had a great Christmas party at the Poppy and Pint, a successful Nanda dinner, and a couple of theatre trips – Medea and Lost – both at Lace Market. This year also, Tim organised a go karting session – I haven’t laughed so much in years – 30 laps of karting at speed, and 10 more laps that were more like boating or ice skating. Spinning round in circles and getting soaked through in the space of 5 minutes!

I would like to thank Caz for providing front of house services and management – stepping down as manager after 6 years. Thousands of cups of coffee, tea, drinks, ice cream and programmes. With a volunteer crew of 15 or so reasonably willing helpers.

Our next season looks like another great year – with comedy, drama and Shakespeare. And lots of ways to get involved.

We still have Eurydice and Miles to come, and the following week our awards and BBQ, which will be held here. More information to follow, but essentially bring stuff to put on a BBQ and drink – we will provide salad and bread/rolls and BBQs.

So what could we do better and what are my reflections on the year gone.

- We struggled with backstage and front of house support a lot this year – which meant people stepping in to help in some form or another on each play. So thanks to those that helped, and a question for the members on how we can get more people engaged in the things we do – more new members, workshops, apprenticeship, etc

- We have amazing props and costumes and furniture – but we also end up with cluttered spaces – so I will be there with Jo and her army of willing helpers to try and sort some of that out this summer.

- What big ideas do we have for the society – younger people, better coffee/foyer area, more stage lighting, carpark improvements. Its great that we have the green room improvements that have just become the norm. But is there anything else we can do.

- What else can we do thats just for fun – “cake” as it was described at pre AGM. Nice things that help us remain a social society, of friends and people with a common interest.

- And how do we harness the passion that we all share, while remaining civil, polite, cordial, respectful. We now always include the code of conduct in our weekly prompt newsletter (thanks Dom for taking this over from Tim, and thanks for Tim’s’ season or so of prompts). And unfortunately we still stumble over those principles when things get tetchy. Sometimes I see it, sometimes I am blind to those sensitivity issues, and other times they are unfortunately brought to my attention when maybe I have missed something, and members inform me as chair where it is more significant. We don’t have to be artificially luvvy duvvy - that might be worse (bottling things up). But conversely there are times when we need to be sensitive to each other. Some people are new, some people have different skills and talents, some people (I am one of them) don’t always see problems that exist and so can express things in a clumsy way. So my plea at the end of this season, is to try and work together more, to help each other, be generous with each other and be respectful – we can achieve so much together, and have done that this season with great results in many areas. In the words of Eurydice’s father “Continue to give of yourself to others because that is the ultimate satisfaction in life – to love, accept, honour and help others”.


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