Huddersfield Thespians are launching an appeal to learn as much as they can about the group’s long and illustrious history as they approach their 100th anniversary.
This Saturday, March 17, they’re hosting an open day at Huddersfield Central Library from 10am and would like to meet any former Thespians with information, photographs or documents relating to the society,
Dexter Booth, a board member of the society, explained: “We are keen to fill in the gaps in our history, particularly from 1980 onward. We want programmes, photos, newspaper clippings - anything. It’s also a chance to reminisce, swap stories – or you can just go along to listen.”
The Thespians, one of the oldest amateur societies in Yorkshire, formed in 1920, opening with their first play, Rudolf Besier’s comedy Don, on Wednesday, October 13 the same year at the Temperance Hall in Princess Street. During the 1920s the company ventured over the Atlantic taking a show to New York in what was the heyday of amateur theatre.
Since then members have staged hundreds of productions and are now based at the Lawrence Batley Theatre – although the company does have its own rehearsal and storage rooms in Oakes. Among the famous names who cut their acting teeth with the society are the late, great comedy star Gorden Kaye; Zoe Lucker, who rose to fame in the television series Footballer’s Wives; Coronation Street icon Thelma Barlow and West End musical performer and actor Robert Lonsdale.
The Thespians’ fortunes may have waxed and waned over recent years as amateur societies have had to compete with television and new media but they continue to produce three shows a year and have a thriving membership of acting and backstage talent.
While there might be gaps in the society’s history, the organisation has a store of props that stretch back for nearly a century and provide a fascinating insight into 20th century life. From mundane, everyday, objects such as books, tools and crockery to the more unusual such as fake pork pies, a 1920s trouser press, mole catcher, stuffed parrot and wind-up gramophone. The collection is a treasure trove of paraphernalia.
The aim of the open day is to bring together new information to bolster that already held in the local history archive, as well as gaining ideas for a year of centenary celebrations.
Dexter explained: “We plan to have lots of celebratory events and performances and we hope to put together an exhibition of the most interesting artefacts from the previous 100 years.
“There will also be a presentation by actors of plays we have performed over the century. This would take the format of a series of excerpts with a narrator linking various performances together. There will be one play from each of our 10 decades.
“We need a number of actors to perform in this unusual set of performances which may be in a variety of venues, such as local parks, the LBT, the university or the library.”
Anyone who would like to be involved in the performances should contact Lynne Whitaker on 07736 422935 or email email@example.com