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Castle Hill Players

Part Two

Interviewee: Maureen Cartledge , born 1948

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 8 Nov, 2007

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Dec 2007

 

I believe you also put on Equus, that play, in 1984?

Thatís right.

How was that received?

Very well, very well received I donít know all the details about it because I was not on committee then. It was a wonderful production and seeing that there was total nudity on stage I felt it was done tastefully, very tastefully.

Now the Baulkham Hills community is a fairly conservative community as a whole. How did they take to that nudity on stage?

I donít think it was a problem then. I think the church group has increased a lot more around the area now they may not take to it now.

So you think attitudes might have been a bit more liberal in the eighties than they are today?

I think they were, I think they were.

Have there been any plays put on that could be described as flops?

I donít think youíd consider any of them as being a real flop. If youíve got a play that may not be, and I wonít name any plays, that will not be accepted by the audience. Itís not because of the production itís not because of the actorís abilities. Itís because it might be a play that people really donít want to see. You can choose plays like that sometimes but theyíre rare.

Well every theatre has them of course?

Of course yes but theyíre very rare. I donít think you can consider it a flop though.

Have the Players ever performed any of Shakespeareís plays?

Yes weíve done A Midsummer Nightís Dream, Othello, Twelfth Night as well too.

That must be quite difficult for actors who are not used to that particular language of the Seventeenth Century or so?

I wasnít involved when they did Othello but I was stage manager for A midsummer nightís dream and in that one we actually brought in one of our members who was very well schooled in Shakespeare. She tutored the actors in the style of Shakespeare and what the meanings were in the speech.

That helps a lot doesnít it?

It does definitely.

'I Hate Hamlet' set design by Maureen Cartledge 2005

So what particular plays have you personally acted in?

Well the original was "A Dollís House" I played the part of young Patty a pregnant lady in Seasonís greetings. Iíve been in "Beach Blanket Tempest" that was a rock musical in more recent years had a lot of fun with that. I havenít done a lot on stage though.

So what other activities have you been involved with The Players?

Well as I said I originally started as an actor but Sue encouraged me in other aspects of the theatre. Then when I started stage managing I started working a lot of time with designers and learnt a lot from them. When they saw that I could draw, paint I was encouraged to start designing for the stage as well too. So that has been currently my primary occupation.

Now you also became stage manager didnít you?

Thatís right, yes. I stage managed over ten productions and really enjoyed it too. But itís a lot hard work. Three months work and youíve got to be there right at the beginning before the play is even cast. Youíve got to be there every single night until closing night. Youíve got to be there before the performers arrive and youíve got to be there after the last person has left.

So how many different productions do you think youíve been involved with at the players?

Iíve been involved in over sixty five productions with the Pavilion Theatre. I think eighty odd total in varying capacities. Sometimes itís just been a prompter or a props person. But Iíve enjoyed every single one of them.

And youíve even painted backgrounds as a scenic artist have you?

Thatís right yes. Thatís been in more recent years if I had my time over again itís probably something that Iíd like to do professionally. But I find itís a bit too late for me now. I donít get paid for it I would have preferred to do it and got paid for it as well.

'Nunsense' rehearsal with John Hunt 2006

Is anyone working there at The Pavilion Theatre being paid, being paid a wage?

There are only two people. The administrative assistant and also our cleaner because itís a big theatre and needs to be kept up to scratch and needs to be professionally done. We have a cleaner come in and gets paid for that too.

Thatís a wonderful thing that you can keep a whole theatre like that running for six seven performances of plays a year?

Itís a business, a big business.

And itís all runningÖ

On voluntary contribution and weíre lucky to have one of the strongest committees as well too. To put on six productions a year takes an incredible commitment from a lot of people and we have an extremely good committee. Itís eleven on the committee and each one of those put in one hundred and fifty percent I would say. The membership is a hundred and forty at the moment. Theyíre varying people, people who come and go through the theatre but most of them stay. Weíve got some long time members as well.

Damaged roof at Castle Hill Players Pavilion Theatre 1974
Right. Sounds like a fantastic amount of dedication by the people. So when you need new carpets or seats and everything else where does the money come from? Does it come from takings or do you get any moneyÖ?

It comes from the money that we make on the theatre. Because even though itís a non profit organisation we have to maintain the theatre. That is our priority to keep it comfortable and clean for the patrons and safe as well too. Weíve got to get safety checks done every year. We need new lighting. So if itís over a certain amount of money we go to the membership and ask for permission to spend X amount of dollars. But youíve got to pay an electrician. We do have an electrician but theyíre not a member of the theatre they come in and do our electrical work. But we have excellent lighting people who are very knowledgeable. Sean Churchwood he has been lighting a number of plays for quite a lot of years now.

Whatís the usual attendance figures at the plays, how full are the houses?

Well weíre averaging about eighty percent at the moment which is extremely good for a community theatre. It may start at about sixty percent on opening night but by the time it gets to the end of the production because of the number of plays that we do. Itís usually averaging about eighty percent which is extremely good.

So how does the theatre publicise its productions?

We have a publicity officer on our committee and they contact the local papers and give them editorial information and also give them invitations to the theatre to come and see the productions early in the piece. We get a lot of editorial space in our local papers. Even local radio stations as well too.

Photo shoot in Castle Hill Park to advertise Castle Hill Players production of 'The Rape of the Belt' in 1964
Now are there any notable people maybe actors or technicians whoíve started at the Players and have moved on to theatre professionally elsewhere or have gone onto study theatre elsewhere?

Yes weíve had Andrew Kinch, one of our lighting people. He started as an actor and ended up with NIDA heís a tutor at NIDA now. He comes back, he still lights plays for us. He runs courses for us at times too. Who else there was a Chris Jones who was in "A Midsummer Nightís Dream" many years ago. Heís gone onto VCA in Melbourne, Victorian College of Arts. (Also Damian Ryan joined Bell Shakespeare Company. Andrew Davidson did a NIDA Directors' course).

So youíve become a training ground also for a number of people?

Yes thatís right and Jemima Snars who is also with NIDA studying props making.

Thatís wonderful that a community theatre can do this?

Yes definitely.

So is there much cultural diversity among the membership of The Castle Hill Player?

Oh yes, we get people from a lot of ethnic groups. Probably middle Europe more than anyone but itís changing as the areas changing. Weíve got a lot of people quite a diverse membership.

Ian Mackey in the new control room at Castle Hill Players Pavilion Theatre c1985
Do you have any involvement with The Orange Blossom Festival?

Yes we sometimes are involved in The Orange Blossom Festival and weíve backed it for a number of years too. Itís not a continuing thing but we do back it.

Any performances go on during that festival?

Yes and itís normally advertised to the public as part of the Orange Blossom Festival.

Now how secure is The Pavilion as The Players permanent home?

Weíve got a lease that goes to 2014 but I think with a lot of backing and community support I think we should continue to remain there for quite a number of years. I think weíre very secure.

Of course youíve got the council backing you as well?

Yes definitely we have great support by council.

Are there any future plans to expand the theatre?

Well we would like to extend the theatre to make some more space for rehearsal space and also for the general public in our foyer. That is to be advised on that one. Weíre not sure that we can get that one through. We would like that to happen.

Can anyone audition for a play?

Oh yes itís open to anyone. We do open auditions we put them in the newspapers, in our membership on the internet as well too, as long as they become a member when they join.

How much is the membership fee?

Its fifty dollars, its twenty dollars joining fee and thirty dollars membership, discounts for young people and pensioners. (Note, these are 2008 prices).

What are your own present activities with The Castle Hill Players? I believe you are acting as archivist as well?

Thatís right.

Tell me?

Well Heather Schubach whose been a member for many, many years, lovely lady too, sheís been on many aspects of the committee as well too. Retired two years ago from the job of being the archivist for the theatre and itís really to her credit that we have so much information about the theatre. Sheís been collecting all of our photos and our editorial information from different plays for too many years that I can remember. She retired from that and thatís been passed onto me now.

Annexe extension to Castle Hill Players Pavilion Theatre 1974
So youíve made all these beautiful scrap books with all the cuttings?

Sheís done most of them Iíve only done a couple so far.

Itís a very interesting record of a communityís cultural life isnít it wouldnít you say?

Yes I think so having information where you can go back. This will also be kept at Baulkham Hills Library because it used to be at Heatherís house. Now that itís been moved to the library it will be open for people to look at, if they ask me. They can find out anything about the theatre.

What do you think The Players have added to the shireís cultural and community life?

Well itís been a stepping stone for performing arts in general. For young people itís brought affordable theatre. Itís encouraged young writers. Weíve also had a local drama award as well too. Itís given a lot of activities for the youth in the area.

Tell me about the short student plays?

Well over the last few years weíve put on a drama award for young playwrights. Itís only done once a year and only if we have enough plays to put forward for a performance. Because it takes a lot of work to do this, the plays are ten minutes long and it opens it up for young people in the theatre to experience play writing, to see their plays performed on stage by pretty professional actors and directors. We ask directors from the theatre to direct their plays and so the young people can actually see what their plays are like.

Thatís wonderful yeah. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the theatre has had to face up till now?

Making sure that we have the type of plays that keep people coming back having a good season of plays thatís always a challenge for us. To make sure that we put on the right plays so that we make enough money to also support the plays in the future as well too. All the money that we do make goes into the next production and to buying equipment for the theatre. You have to keep purchasing new lighting, new sound equipment, carpeting; seating has to be replaced at one time or another. Weíve done that through the years and its cost thousands.

Maureen whatís the theatre done for your life?

I think itís opened me up a lot to all sorts of possibilities. When I first joined I was very quiet as people might not remember at the moment. I didnít have a lot of confidence. I had not been involved in even my art work which Iíd originally studied. It brought all of that back. Itís introduced me to so many interesting people. Itís given me a lot of friends and a lot of entertainment too. Itís taught me new skills as well too.

'Lend Me a Tenor' 2008
Itís been wonderful it soundsÖ?

It has been definitely.

So how do you see the future of The Castle Hill Players what do you think the future holds for them?

I think weíre doing very, very well at the moment and weíre getting incredible houses. I think itís a very good future for the theatre and having a strong committee, a good membership and a good support from the local community. I think itís about nine hundred season subscribers. Thatís quite good for the theatre as well too. Yes pretty close to that. So I think with that support we should go on for many, many years.

Is there anything else like it anywhere that you know of in New South Wales, like a volunteer community run theatre like yours?

I think every community theatre are phenomenal, every theatre because theyíve got the same commitment. They just donít all have a home of their own with the facilities that we have. They donít all put on six plays a year too, a lot of them can only put on three plays a year because they might have to share facilities with other groups or other community functions.

So yours is fairly unique in the annals of theatre?

I think it is I havenít been given any information on theatre groups that are like us where we can put on six productions a year. So I think we are pretty unique.

Whatís the capacity of the theatre at the moment how many people can you actually seat?

Each performance a hundred and fifty seats in the theatre so you multiply that by fourteen and thatís quite a lot. Increase it with the charity nights and schools as well too. We get a lot of people.

Audience enjoying coffee during interval at Castle Hill Players perrformance of 'Nunsense' December 2006

In terms of raising money for the theatre are there things like lamington cake stalls and things like that?

Not anymore, not anymore that was in the early days that was in the very early days. No we make all the money that we need for the theatre from the performance that we put on.

From the ticket sales right?

From the ticket sales.

Thatís a fascinating story?

And we havenít had any government grants.

How much would one of the tickets be for people to attend one of the plays of The Castle Hill Players?

Well if you are general public and just phoning up for the first time youíll be paying eighteen dollars for a concession ticket and twenty three dollars for a full price ticket. (Note, these are 2008 prices).

Are the season tickets cheaper?

Yes, yes if you get six plays youíre only paying one hundred and twenty dollars so thatís twenty dollars a ticket to see five plays thatís incredible good value to see quality performances and you donít have to go all the way to the city.

Castle Hill Players new extension Feb 2009

So whatís it done for the community do you think the theatre in terms of what is has provided and what kind of benefits do you think the communityís had?

Cheap entertainment they get free parking, they get a free programme with the price of the ticket as well.

In terms of other benefits for the community culturally?

Yes I think so it gives you an outlet for your artistic skills. A lot of people who are in the acting fraternity if theyíre in community theatre they do it because they love it. Because we donít get paid for it so that if youíre wanting to become a professional actor then itís much harder. We can work close to home as well we donít have to do it for a long period of time. If youíre a professional actor you might have to perform in a play that runs for six months or twelve months or a year or whatever I donít know whether they go that long. In community theatre youíve got a certain number of plays with a day job youíve got time to do it.

Itís a wonderful creative outlet for the community wouldnít you say?

Oh thatís right, definitely.

Castle Hill Players new foyer Feb 2009

If somebody wants to act lets say then they can try out their skills perhaps?

Yes thatís right I think most people including some of the big names in the business have started on the stage. I know that Reg Livermore started at the Pymble Players. Everyone has to start somewhere and unless you get into an acting course at NIDA or one of the other acting companies you need to experience different styles of acting, different directors and a lot of them start with community theatre.

As an actress have you ever had the butterflies on stage?

Always, always I have stood there thinking ďwhat the hell am I doing here I should be working backstage insteadĒ. I was terrified at one play thinking I would forget everything thinking I would forget everything as I walked on stage. As soon as I heard my cue line I walked on and continued quite adequately.

Well you passed that hurdle obviously?

Yes I did.

Weíre coming to the end maybe of our interview. Are there any other comments that you want to make about the theatre before we close it?

Castle Hill Players new Box Office Feb 2009

I think Iíve covered most of it but I think that to have a community theatre is a wonderful experience because itís quite different from television. When you watch a movie or television youíre not connected with the actors in the drama. When you go along to see a play you are instantly involved with the people on stage you can see their expressions, you can see their tears which are real quite often. When theyíre in the part that requires that you can feel the vibrance of the performance and the fun when itís a comedy.

Great experience?

Yes it is a very good experience, definitely.

Well thank you very much Maureen for your contribution to this oral history interview itís fantastic.

 

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