THE GAGE PLAYERS – Amateur Drama Group

Chairman’s report , for the AMG held on 22nd February, 2022


Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the Gage 2022 AGM, our first general meeting for two years.

 

I took over the role of chairman in September 2020, after the end of our first, sunny, lockdown.  Our spring 2020 production of Molly’s Calling written and directed by Pip Rolls had been postponed because of Covid – people were not allowed to mix freely in public or to visit loved ones in hospital and care homes, and it had become obvious that there would be no staged productions for The Gage.   We should have been celebrating our 70th anniversary, a rare and remarkable milestone for any amateur drama society, with a gala production in November 2020 directed by Gill Gibbins, but Covid and lockdown meant that this wonderful landmark occasion had to be missed, to our great sadness.

 

In order to keep interest and contact going, we turned in September to Zoom for informal weekly meetings – reading poems, prose or short plays, anything from Shakespeare to Monty Python and Pam Ayres!  These evenings were very successful, full of variety, fun and were a good way of maintaining the enthusiasm of Gage members who wished to take part or to listen in.

 

The second lockdown came suddenly at Christmas 2020 and was very different, with cold, grey days, and disappointments.   Our hoped-for spring 2021 production of Molly’s Calling continued to be on hold.  However, as the original cast were still available, it was hoped that we could recommence rehearsals and aim for a November 2021 production.  Our usual September supper with rehearsed reading, to be directed by Chris Slater, was also postponed until less worrying times.

 

In planning ahead, we learned from our regular rehearsal hall that not only had the hire charges tripled but that without notice our regular Wednesday evening slot would not be available to us at the times we needed – and had always had – despite giving them very early notice of our production dates.  We really felt that we were not being fairly treated, after so many years as a loyal hall user.  We searched for other venues, and learned that we would have to pay increased hire charges, but very happily found that Walton Primary School Hall was available when we needed it, with excellent facilities and administration, and car parking.  

 

Optimistically, rehearsals had got under way in our new venue in September 2021 but, just a week away from opening night in November, we had to make the devastating decision once again to cancel the show.  Tickets sales were very slow, with people still afraid to mix in enclosed spaces, despite ventilation and our meeting all the Covid regulations, and we knew that the show would run at a very substantial loss if we went ahead, to say nothing of tiny audiences being demoralising for the cast.  The cast and crew were all hugely disappointed but understood the importance of containing losses as much as possible, with the Gage already having to write off the rehearsal and other preparation charges, though we were able to save some of the Riddell Hall charges and a few front of house costs.   Our sympathy went out to our playwright and director, Pip Rolls, who patiently accepted the situation on this third attempt to put his play on the stage. 

 

The use of Walton Primary School has opened up other opportunities for the Gage.  As our poetry evenings have been so successful it was suggested to the school that the children of the top two classes could have a competition to write or read a favourite poem, and join us for a matinee performance.   The six winning children would read their poems on stage, and six Gage members would read our choices, with an interval for afternoon tea and a raffle, and a gift bag plus commemorative Gage certificate being presented to each child on stage at the end.  We hope this will draw a good audience of parents, grandparents, friends and teachers.  Well, this event should already have happened this March, but unfortunately so many children were going down with this wretched Covid that it was thought wiser to wait until the autumn, when we hope the virus will be better controlled for young ones.

 

The highlight of our year so far in 2022 has been the staging of Pip Rolls’ five short comedies, What Really Happened, a funny and irreverent take on some key moments in our history, in a rehearsed reading performance with supper.  It was so good to be treading the boards again!   The audience were very appreciative and really enjoyed the whole evening.  Thank you, Pip, for ‘making it happen’.  Following that success, we hope to put o at least one further rehearsed reading play with supper later in the year.

 

The 2021 Walton May Pageant had also been postponed, to 21st May 2022, with its title ‘Our Precious Planet’.  We shall have a Gage stall there, and will also run the bottle tombola stall, a reliable source of revenue, so we are looking forward to a popular, fun event – and good weather.

 

While it might seem as though nothing has been going on, behind the scenes many improvements were being made: the scenery storage shed had to be re-roofed, a new shed for wardrobe was paid for and installed, and all our wardrobe items were sorted (some discarded), washed, ironed and hung ready for future use – thank you to Eileen, Clare and Lorraine for their Trojan efforts.  

 

In addition, two grant applications have been prepared and presented this month, to give our running costs a safety net until we have built up our reserves again – they are the monies we use to fund all the upfront expenditure for productions, and also to make improvements to the hall.  Thanks go to Rod Lucas, our treasurer, and Gill Gibbins, our secretary, for putting together a bid direct to the National Lottery Community Fund, and to Pfizer, via the good offices of Walton Village Forum.  We are awaiting their responses.

 

My personal thanks go to Gill Gibbins for all the work she quietly does in the background, and for the help and support she has given me.  I couldn’t do this job without her, I just wouldn’t know where to start.  So many people deserve mention and thanks for getting things done, but again, especially our treasurer, Rod Lucas, for working hard with our financial position – not an enviable task, with no opportunities to generate income for two years, but plenty of outgoings!  I know you will explain our state of affairs in a moment.

 

Thank you to all who have kept enthusiasm for and belief in the Gage going in these dreadful times, and I look forward to being with you all again soon, in person.

 

Gay Weeden


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List of Past Productions

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We have regular quiz nights at a local pub: watch this space. Please contact The Gage at friends@thegageplayers.co.uk if you would like to rise to the challenge.

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The Gage Players is registered as a charity in England and Wales (no 286837)

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Act well your part; there all the honour lies