Meet the Players: Stephen Gaskell
I have no idea how I became chair of the group, starting as I did scrambling around back stage being ‘prompt’ and helping out with props for my first ever Players show. That was almost 10 years ago now and the show was called The Heiress, a vintage costume drama. Ten years on and many shows later I don’t regret a single moment.
I joined the Players as a way of bringing back the actor in me, which I had (sadly) buried under a mountain of work and other life stuff. Years ago (well, not that long ago!) I almost studied theatre at university but instead followed a different academic route. I dabbled in the arts back then (not the dark ones) but never became seriously involved. Several years on with a steady job under my belt I realised something was missing and it was time to rekindle my creative side. So the Players and I met!
For me, the words that sum up the group are ‘friendly’ and ‘fun’. And that comes through in all our shows and how we approach our events and activities. Because of this, I believe our shows are always a cut above local theatre group standard. We have fun, work hard and strive to put on the best shows we can for our audience. I recall how an audience member watching Abigail’s Party, my first attempt at directing, said how it was as good as any she had seen ‘up west’. That was either very kind or very true; I assumed both!
We are also not afraid to be different. Only last year, having auditioned for a reasonably ‘straight’ male role, I suddenly found myself with another, longer standing male member of the group donning a wig and Victorian dress as an old aunt in Arsenic and Old Lace. The publicity said, “as you’ve never seen it before”. I think a lot of my family and friends couldn’t have put it better.
And I simply love the variety of what we do. Our plays vary from the spooky and sinister Hound of Baskervilles, set high on the Devon moors, through to classic comedies such as The Anniversary, and serious psycho-dramas like Rope, our most recent show.
Outside the main shows, I’ve been really pleased with how our regular script reading nights have enthused people and engaged them in what we do. It’s a great way to meet new people and develop friendships over a drink. My particular favourite was Season’s Greetings, a festive classic in which everything that could go wrong, does.
This article also offers me the chance to promote our next event after the autumn show. We’ll be hosting a Christmas showcase at The Honor Oak. Dates and times are yet to be confirmed, but it is likely to be the week before Christmas.
We’ll be performing a mix of storytelling, script reading and improvisation, all with a festive theme. We’re looking for volunteers and extra ideas for material to perform so do contact us if you want to be involved. Like everything else we do, it’ll be fun!
So that’s me. If you’re new to the Players, mildly interested or want to be involved again, come and meet us at one of our readings, come to see Stepping Out (29-31 October) or get in touch. There’s always loads to do – sound and light, publicity, set design, event planning (even some acting perhaps). Who knows, like me, you might find yourself one day as group chair!