Acting out of love
East Side Players bring community theatre to life
Lettice Douffet can’t help but act — neither can Heather Goodall.
In the play Lettice and Lovage, Douffet loses her job as a tour guide for embellishing stories about the historic estate where she worked.
In the real world, Goodall, who plays Douffet, works a full-time job but cannot resist the call of the stage.
Despite a day job, Goodall still performs five nights a week with the East Side Players, the resident theatre company at the Papermill Theatre inside Todmorden Mills.
“I can’t help it,” she said. “It’s just my passion, it’s what I love to do.”
Although Lettice and Lovage mainly features only two characters it takes more than 25 people to put on the show, none of whom are paid. All of the East Side Players’ actors, directors, set designers and make-up artists are volunteers.
“We all do this for the love of theatre,” said Daryn Dewalt, who has acted with the troupe for 10 years and currently serves as their publicity director. “Most people all have full-time jobs so it’s quite the undertaking for every production.
“It’s approximately an eight-week rehearsal period and everyone rehearses three days a week.”
The East Side Players were formed in 1967 when the East York Players and the Leaside Players merged. The original members were mostly expatriate Brits who brought over one of their favourite pastimes.
“Community theatre is quite popular in England so a lot of the original companies were from British backgrounds and they did a lot of British plays and farces and typical community fare,” Dewalt said.
Over the years the group has evolved as it gained more influences. These days, the Players perform American theatre as well and also try to put on at least one Canadian play every other season.
This season The Hypocondriac, written by the famous French playwright Moliere, will be shown from May 24 to June 9, 2012.
East Side Players productions may not have the huge budgets of large-scale theatre companies but are able to succeed due to the dedication of their volunteers, according to Dewalt. Last season the troupe put on a play that had a cast of 12.
“To do that professionally would be very expensive, but because no one’s getting paid we were able to do a large production of a Noel Coward play with beautiful sets and beautiful costumes,” said Dewalt.
Theatre fan Rob Cowan, who has taken in four plays at the Papermill Theatre, said he prefers community theatre to its more commercial counterpart.
“I just find this more real,” he said after watching Lettice and Lovage with his friend Mike Patton. “You’re closer to it, it’s not overly produced.”
“It’s like the difference between NHL hockey and Junior A,” said Patton. “Sometimes Junior A is better.”
Lettice and Lovage runs until Nov. 12.
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