In 1983 Vera Hewins started a very small, very amateur, theatre troupe at Upper Lansdowne. After many years, many many more plays, a huge amount of fun and hard work, and a couple of reincarnations, The Upper Lansdowne Players are still going strong. Based in the Upper Lansdowne Memorial Hall, high in the Lansdowne valley, we have now become a bit of a Manning Valley institution and a “must see”, especially if you have visitors at the right time.
Our current Mum, Vivienne Scott, took over The Players in the late 1990’s and set about turning us into a small but competent acting troupe. Over the years we have become at least halfway respectable actors, Vivienne being rewarded with the Greater Taree City Councils “Citizen Of The Year” award in 2006 for her efforts. The troupe is run by its Actors Committee, of whom Vivienne is the Chair.
To continue raising our skill level and as a recruitment aid, we bring high calibre acting coaches from Sydney once or twice every year, unused places being available to non-members. Coaches have included Lyn Pierse and Tyran Parke.
Usually, we stick to comedy, but just occasionally we’ll do something a little more serious. But never “heavy”. We have had the pleasure of performing two of local playwright Trevor Clune’s plays, ‘Mad As’ and ‘Kissed By A Rainbow’. We often have senior school students in our casts, and have had the pleasure of seeing at least one of them distinguish himself by winning a scholarship to university studying drama. Like any small troupe, we are constantly on the lookout for new members.
We aim to produce two seasons a year, and have done a little touring. Coff’s Harbour “Spring On Stage” festival and last year The Manning Winter Festival, where we took a show to a couple of village halls in the Manning and to the Taree PCYC. Most of our performances are at our home, the beautiful Upper Lansdowne Memorial Hall.
Our main claim to fame are the Theatre Dinner nights, the institution that I mentioned earlier. Well known from Port Macquarie to Forster, the Theatre Dinner at Upper Lansdowne is a joint effort between the Upper Lansdowne Memorial Hall, the Upper Lansdowne community and The Upper Lansdowne Players. The “dinner” part of the deal is being provided by local non-profit groups seeking to boost their funds. Might be your local school or sports club, and of course, the Hall does its share of catering too. So one way or another, it all goes back into the community.
We’ve had our moments. A very rare set malfunction when a fairly substantial piece gave in to gravity. And the nightmare of all actors, but to the huge amusement of the audience, when one of our number marched on stage, fixed the audience with an imperious eye and announced “I am lost for words”. She sat and awaited their return, which , fortunately, was immediate. Sometimes, just sometimes, you really know you’re alive!
We’ve been going a long time and we ain’t done yet. We do it because it’s fun and because it helps keep our beautiful Hall, our community centre, in good order. We don’t sell “high art”. We sell “a good night out”.