CHRIS ADDISON is now a professional actor under the name of Chris Gallarus was cast in the leading role of the Reverend John White in our fourth community play Fire from Heaven. As the following account by Chris explains this experience was literally life changing for him and his family.
Taking part in Dorchester’s Fourth Community play ‘Fire From Heaven’ was a life changing experience for my family and me. Our participation came as a result of wishing to do something as a family to bring us together, at the time of the auditions in October 2001 my wife Karen and I had just met and moved in together. I met Karen at the end of July 2001, whilst I was a single parent of 3 children. Karen moved in with us in September and after reading an article in the Dorset Evening Echo about the community play auditions we made a phone call to arrange an audition and thus began a journey that is still continuing.
Although we both had an interest in theatre, our separate lives prior to our meeting had not really given us any real time or suitable setting to follow it up. The community play seemed to be the perfect moment to not only bond closer as a family due to its accessibility for all, but also to make new friends and enjoy once again the joy of theatre. Our expectations of the experience to come were soon surpassed. We had thought as newcomers to the community play that we would have difficulty fitting in, but we were soon made to feel welcome. Our children soon became closely involved in many aspects of the play; two of them having small roles in the production itself. Our eldest child, who has moderate learning difficulties and attention deficit disorder was not keen on acting but was very interested in the technical side, and the technical director allowed him to become his assistant and he was responsible for all the sound cues and effects during the performances themselves. Due to his shyness it was a pleasant surprise when he also became an unofficial assistant to the director Nina during rehearsals, as once I was off book he would stand by her side with my copy of the script, and she would only have to look down and he would have it on the correct page ready for her if she wished to look at it. For the boost it gave the children’s confidence the experience would have been worth it.
As for me, well, nothing has ever been quite the same. The night that we gathered as a cast for the first time to hear and see what roles we had been given is one that I will never forget. I can still remember sitting next to Karen and looking through the cast list for my name, and after going through it a couple of time saying to her ‘I can’t find my name, they haven’t given me a part, I thought they said everyone who wanted would get a part’. It was then that she pointed to my name at the top of the cast list next to the name of the Reverend John White, one of the principal characters. My reaction on then looking at the script is not one that can really be repeated. It was later when the rehearsal schedule was given out that we realised the full extent of the commitment we had just undertaken. However undaunted we vowed to continue and enjoy whatever was to come. The whole experience is one that we will never forget and know that it could never be repeated.
The longer term effects of that phone call are still being felt and the journey is by no means over. After the community play I wanted to continue acting and joined Dorchester Drama the local amateur dramatic group. Although I enjoyed performing with Dorchester Drama there still seemed to be something missing, and so after many long discussions with Karen and the children we came to perhaps another great and momentous decision. With the full support of my family I left my job as a laboratory technician at the local school to embark upon a degree course in Theatre and Performance at the University of Plymouth. The first two years of study took place at Weymouth College where I gained a Distinction in the Foundation Degree in Performance Practice. Although I was studying I was still able to live at home for these two years. However near the end of this time we had another decision to make. The result of this was that I had to move to Exmouth in order to complete the third and final year of a full degree in Theatre and Performance. Luckily thanks to the support of Karen, by this time we were married, and our children, I graduated in 2007 with a 2.1 BA (Hons) Degree in Theatre and Performance. Since graduating I have now become a full member of Equity and am listed on Spotlight and although life is not easy I am slowly beginning to build a career as a Professional Actor. It is true that an actor’s life is not easy but with support from my family and friends I am perhaps doing what a lot of people dream of which is to find something in
life that they enjoy and to hopefully at times get paid for doing it.
Without the experience of the community play there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be the person I am today or in the position that I am. I am blessed in that I have a fully supportive family and a network of friends ready and willing to help if needed.
Community plays change lives, some changes may seem small; they may just inspire confidence, which it did for our children, who now as adults are confident and able to make their own way in life, knowing that if you are determined there is nothing that you cannot achieve. The change in my life may seem major but again it is just a matter of confidence and belief, and embracing the chances that life gives you. Also it is a matter of having the courage to pursue a dream and the support to do it.
Both Karen and I would not change our decisions and feel that the community play experience is something that we will never forget and certainly one that we have never regretted. Indeed some of the people we met ten years ago are still firm friends today.
As I mentioned earlier I am now a full member of Equity and perform now as a professional as Chris Gallarus, also my spotlight number is 3415-6726-3818 should you wish to view my career so far. http://www.spotlight.com/3415-6726-3818
Chris Addison (Chris Gallarus)