NIKKI’S NOTES for September 2019 PROMPT

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Will there be future Volunteers in the Am. Dram world?

It seems to me and to others, that many societies nowadays are experiencing work overload by a few, mainly ‘golden oldies’ and acceptance of this status quo by most of the rest of the membership. Many of the latter are older too, and if asked to help, feel that the baton should be past to younger, more dynamic souls.

Where are these go-getters I ask myself, for this cannot continue ad infinitum? Here I am once again trying to cast a play without the slightest interest from younger actors or, sadly, middle-aged men!

There are reasons for this of course. The young work long hours, often shift work and because they are so much in demand, have their pick of the various societies’ productions. The middle-aged often have small children and partners who, quite rightly, want the maximum involvement by their men in said children’s upbringing. So often, the men can only appear in one or two productions a year at most.

So, what are we to do? Use social media more perhaps? I do think that every publicity department in a society should make their society as inviting as possible, but with so many societies all doing the same, is it any wonder that many smaller groups still can’t attract, or keep, enough youngsters?

Drawing on the talent from Youth Groups either run by a society, or closely allied to it, is another possibility. However, there are problems here – notably the wretched business of chaperoning if the lower age groups are used, and the lack of experience of life if the older ones are selected. By all means, use the latter particularly in smaller roles, where they can be encouraged to come back to a society when they’ve finished their inevitable stint at Uni. Sadly, though, this does not solve the problem of recruiting and keeping those actors in their twenties, who may well have started off in a society with mum and dad, but have now felt the need to spread their wings, or are too busy trying to make a living to commit to six weeks of immersive rehearsal and then performance.

We all know of amateur dramatic societies that have closed due to lack of members willing to act, direct, build sets, design lights and sound, work backstage, front of house, etc., etc.
The other day I was sitting on the bus talking to a young lady, who helped me so much in the past with her stage management skills. Sadly, she is now working shift work and can’t commit to amateur dramatics, either backstage or even as a regular audience member. We discussed this problem and she was of the opinion that, because there are a goodly number of drama groups in the Bromley area, all suffering from a lack of volunteers, that we should get together and really talk about it. Who knows, ideas may come out of a meeting of like minds that could help everyone. I always think the pooling of knowledge is a good thing, but sometimes egos and the fear of losing power scupper the best of intentions. I hope and pray that those in charge of amateur drama will not let this happen.

Nikki Packham

This is an edited version of Nikki’s Notes September 2019 published in Prompt, the monthly magazine for Theatre 62.