On 27th August 1975 playwright/director Julian Garner and I opened our first touring production with The Frog Company. We played at Ifield Barn Theatre near Crawley and then headed for a short West Country tour. Last week was the 40th anniversary of that production.
The company of actors, all past or present members of Christ’s Hospital School (see picture above), have all gone their separate ways, and 40 years on it has been really difficult to find them. Julian and I have stayed in the business all our lives, but others have moved on to be spice importers, property portfolio managers, and successful authors. I tried to contact all of them, but to no avail. I will continue.
Last Thursday 27th August we held a skype reading of the play we opened the tour with. Hosted by company member John Dunkley in his docklands pad, and connected in to Julian in Scandinavia, there was a reading of Before Gethsemene. It was fascinating to hear the play again after 40 years, and I hope Julian does the update he was talking about and we can give it a new production.
That was my “hello again” evening, which followed the launch of a new production planned for October in London of Michael John LaChuisa’s off-Broadway hit Hello Again. It is a pleasure to be working with Playpen Productions and my colleagues at Phundee to get a crowdfunding appeal out. The aim is to raise around £4k to ensure that the actors and creative team can be paid. The production will be playing in the 50 seat Hope Theatre which makes it an uneconomical fringe project – even with packed houses. Traditionally these productions would be billed as “profit share” which, in the main, is a misnomer. What is lovely to see is that so many of the fringe houses and fringe producers are trying to find ways to ensure actors are paid. It won’t always happen, and there has been much debate in the Stage and the facebook/twittersphere on this area. Creatives must never be stopped from banding together and making a show happen where there is no money for anyone, but wherever possible we need to encourage fundraising, grant support, and seed corn risk investment to make sure actors are paid, and new projects come to life with paid creatives.
Its funny for me to realise that I’ve been helping to make fringe and small scale theatre happen for 40 years. I don’t think I’ve changed much over the years, and my fundraising letters and pitches to venues from The Frog Company in 1975 read exactly as I now write.
I would like also, through this blog, to pay tribute to the staff at Christ’s Hospital who encouraged us and championed us in our formative projects. No-one questioned that we were going to take Julian’s play off on tour. We also produced the first play in the Bill Howell designed theatre Adventures in the Skin Trade. Christopher Nicholson, an inspiring English and classics teacher, joined us as President of the company. Duncan Noel Paton, the head of Drama, and Alan Wilkinson, music teacher and administrator of the Arts Centre, gave us all encouragement. Some of the staff donated to our funds, and the charitable support organisation also gave us a small donation. Christopher sadly died earlier this year, Duncan continues to cheer Julian and myself on with projects, and I had the pleasure of seeing Alan only last night. He went from the school to run the Fermoy Centre in Kings Lynn (where Greg and I later took Romeo and Juliet with the Poor Players) and from there to found and run Music in Country Churches. Great to be at one of his concerts at Woolpit Church raising money for the community.
Thank you to those who encouraged me to just do it. I hope that is the message I also pass on to companies like Playpen and all those who come to my CGO Surgeries and work with me as a Coach. Start with the end in mind – and then get on with it and make it happen.
If you can help Hello Again – please have a look at the campaign with lovely sexy rewards. And a great trailer introducing you to the theme of the show…go watch.
RE. Duncan Noel Paton
I was at Cranleigh School in the late 1960s and Duncan Noel Paton was my O level English and A level history teacher. He also led the way in amazing productions of drama in general, but I especially recall opera (Bizet’s Carmen) at the school. On a more personal level he always seemed interested in his students and even went so far as to take me and a couple of other boys to Oxford one day to encourage us to “go for it”! I didn’t get in, but I have never forgotten him.
Is he well? I so hope so. I doubt he would remember me after so many years and so many people in his life, but if he is still about perhaps you could say “Hi” for me. Many thanks.
(Richard Larg. Cranleigh School 1966 – 1970)