Following the closure of theatres in the first lockdown, members of the Wombwell Thespians ADS moved the rehearsals of the planned stage play, “Ladies Day” by Amanda Whittington – to online, first on Facebook Messenger and then onto the Zoom conferencing platform. After a few weeks it became clear that theatres would not re-open soon and continuing with the rehearsals was limiting in benefit and usefulness. We knew the script pretty well but needed to get on stage for the movements etc. Also at this time the May performance was postponed. In line with what had been happening with other societies, we had play readings to keep in contact and maintain interest. This served a purpose but wasn’t keeping everyone interested. At this time, Andy Harris, of the Thespians, started writing some playlets based on the pandemic and its impact on daily lives. With the first one written it was also suggested that we could record it as an audio version and share as (what turned out to be) an audio performance broadcast podcast. We did the first story, Pandemic Stories 1 – Paul and Beth as a 37 minute performance audio and released it on Anchor Podcasting, a free to upload site, but it meant it had a wide reach including being on Spotify, iTunes Podcasts, Podchaser etc.
Spurred on by this Andy and one of the other cast members, Morven Robinson, wrote a second Pandemic story (43 minutes) and again recorded this over Zoom. In June this was followed by the third instalment “Annie” (42 minutes) again over Zoom. The cast were mainly members of the Thespians but for this play we “borrowed” a few outsiders – notably to have a child presence and an extra man. These were produced from a standing start, with no-one in the group having much experience of audio recording and editing, Zoom, and podcasts, but we delivered a pretty good product – we think!
We continued to meet every week or so over Zoom, but in the summer managed to have a few small physical get-togethers when the lockdown restrictions were eased – including 2 weeks actually in theatre! But then restricted again, we could do a little bit more recording and took on one of Oscar Wilde’s plays, “The Importance of being Earnest”. We chose this as it did not require a performance license (which, if you do an audio broadcast, can get you in all sorts of problems) and we had sufficient cast to do the play. It is a witty and clever script and works well as an audio presentation with little change. Each of the 3 acts were presented as a separate podcast and released on all Podcast sites. It was a lot of fun and, as the listening numbers to this continue to rise, we may look at doing another Oscar Wilde play soon.
We are now in the process of recording a new series of playlets entitled “Upstaged”. Written by Andy Harris alongside fellow “Thesps” members Joe Thomas and Brett Barnett, the series is about an Amateur Dramatic Group’s first night performance following the ending of restrictions – so there some mention of the pandemic and the problems it has generated, but it also concentrates on other problems and issues faced by Amateur groups generally. We have recorded three chapters, which are available on line and four more to come.
Alongside our play readings and play recordings, We continue to meet for quizzes (as seems the national past time) and of course kept up to date with each other. A few of the rehearsing members have suffered the virus but fortunately thus far have survived. Please also note – none of the audio performances has any paid element to it. We do not have sponsors for anything and no payments paid for acting or production.
Anchor Podcast hosting site: https://anchor.fm/wombwell-thespians
Wombwell Thespians Website: https://wombwellthespians.org.uk
Digital Stage (home for all Wombwell Podcasts): https://www.digital-stage.co.uk
Wombwell Thespians on Spotify: >>> https://open.spotify.com/show/5NSZ3WS7wSnjwjNCNugCbZ?si=kyObcsIdTW2zJEworU9iLg
Fiona Goulty (PS, IOBE, UPS)
Karen MacQuarrie (PS, IOBE, UPS)
Hannah Studd (PS, IOBE, UPS)
Joe Thomas (IOBE, UPS)
Robert Wilson (IOBE, UPS)
Andrea Conway (IOBE, UPS)
Lewis Conway (IOBE, UPS)
Andy Harris (PS, IOBE, UPS)
Morven Robinson (PS, UPS
Lauran Thomas (PS)
Brett Barnett (PS, IOBE, UPS)
Key:- PS – Pandemic Stories; IOBE – Importance of Being Earnest; UPS – Upstaged