A Seventh Community Play for Dorchester!
The Dorchester Community Plays Association is thrilled and excited to announce that Playwright Stephanie Dale www.stephaniedale.org has been comissioned to write and Director Peter Cann to direct our 7th play. Research is going well and lots has been discovered about the wool trade, shipwrecks and monastic life in 15th and 16th century Dorchester. Stephanie is currently busy reading through all the material, developing and writing her script - exciting times!
Over the next few months we are organising a range of social events, in particular we have a theatre trip to Chichester to see Terence Rattigan's Ross. Do keep an eye on the Events page for further activities. All are welcome. Please come and join in and bring your friends and family.
2016 Carnival entry - Huge thanks to Lucy Allen and team!
GALA EVENING October 3rd 2015
“Thirty Years on seems a good moment to mark an innovation,and so it proved at Sunninghill Community Hall on Saturday 3rd October. In the late 80s, playwright and director AnnJellicoe invented a new theatrical form, the community play, in which a whole town might participate in the creation of a work of theatrical art. Starting in Ann’s home town of Lyme Regis, the seventh play was to be the largest. The Dorchester play involved well over 100 performers, an orchestra, and dozens more people involved in researching, building, making, selling, funding, driving, baby-sitting, ushering and indeed attending. I was privileged to be asked to write the play, Entertaining Strangers, which covered over 50 years of Dorchester’s 19th century history, and involved a race meeting, many dinners, a sermon or two, a grand equestrian parade and a major outbreak of cholera. It was directed by Ann, co-directed by Jon Oram, composed by Andrew Dixon and professionally designed and stage managed.
Since then, five more plays have been made, giving the lie to the idea that the model of community play-making doesn’t leave a legacy. Many, many of the Entertaining Strangers company went on to perform in subsequent plays, some of them in all six. By the same token, the professional team kept coming back. There was a more than representative sample of both groups at the celebratory dinner. For those of us who’ve been involved for most or all of the thirty-year span, it was a chance to meet old friends, to hear news of others, and to marvel at how well we were all looking.
Introduced by the new chair of the Dorchester Community Play Association, Sonia Morris, speakers during the evening included the first chair, Trevor Jones, Jon Oram (co-director of Entertaining Strangers and later director of the 2007 play A Time to Keep), Rupert Creed who wrote Fire from Heaven and the most recent play, Drummer Hodge, and composer Andrew Dixon, who also wrote and directed the third play, Running Still. The last speaker was Stephanie Dale, with whom I wrote the fifth play, A Time to Keep, and who is already beginning work on the seventh.
All of the speakers spoke of the unique emotional but also the artistic impact and value of the community play.
Music is always a vital part of the plays and one of the high-spots of the evening was the performance (and indeed singing) of music from the plays, by a hand which included play composer Tim Laycock.
There were two other highlights for me. One was a filmed interview with Ann Jellicoe, now 88 and too frail to attend the evening. Community play actors Sue Wylie and Maggie Ansell gently coaxed Ann to talk about how the form was conceived and developed. Most moving was when they told Ann how being involved with community plays had inspired and changed them. Suddenly, Ann said “then I haven’t wasted my life”, and her eyes filled with tears.
Another extraordinary moment for me was when Maggie, her daughter, her son-in-law and her grand-daughter performed an extract from Entertaining Strangers. Maggie had never acted or been involved in theatre when she was recruited to the organising committee, and then cast in one of the lead roles. Her daughter Fran, then 18, was in the orchestra, and also played a major part in Fire from Heaven, two shows on. Her daughters Kitty and Maisie (then three years old) first appeared in A Time to Keep.
The Ansell family are living proof of the transformative power of this remarkable form.”