Meet the Players | Paul Buckenham

I am not an actor, I don’t act and I will probably never “tread the boards” as they say. However I love being a member of St George’s Players. Why? Because there are so many ways you can be involved in a community theatre group and contribute to its success without having to learn any lines or even pick up a script!

I got involved in the Players about 9 years ago when my partner Stephen auditioned for his first performance. The group relies on the commitment of volunteers for almost everything that has to happen to make a show happen. I began by helping with set construction and the stage break-down after the show. I was always impressed with the high standards of the productions, which seemed to completely surpass the small size of the group. I soon realised that the secret lay in the way that everyone from the actors, to the crew and friends pitched in to make it happen.

I also started helping out with front of house and if you’ve been to any of our shows you’ll know it gets very busy. It’s a bit of an honour to be the friendly face of the group, greeting the audience members as they arrive each evening. You’ll still see me on show nights selling tickets and running the mid show raffle!

Good publicity is important to promote all of the productions. Yes we rely a lot on social media and if you’re reading this then you’ve obviously found the website. However we still need to design programmes, flyers and posters for each show. I’ve always been interested in graphic design and I have volunteered my services to design the artwork for quite a few productions including Memory of Water, Abigail’s Party, The Anniversary, Rope and Stepping Out.   I really enjoy working with the show director’s to design something that they feel captures the spirit of the play, is distinctive and of course looks eye catching enough to entice folk along.

A few years ago an opportunity became available to stand for the position of treasurer on St George’s committee. I have run the accounts of voluntary groups before and it seemed like a good opportunity to become part of the committee and influence the future direction of the group. I was under no misapprehension of the scale of the task ahead! St George’s isn’t a profit making organisation and most of the time survives on a shoe string. However the finances were not looking healthy back then and the group can’t exist on an overdraft. We always look to beg or borrow as much as possible for each show in terms of making the set, props and costumes as economical as they can be. But there’s certain key expenses that we can’t avoid – the cost of the production license, the hall hire and sometimes we have to invest in new equipment for lighting or sound effects.

After I took over as treasurer we started thinking about what a proper production budget should look like. By mixing big name shows in with the less well known ones, we managed to get the ticket receipts up and move things back into the black. I work with the directors, cast and crew for each show to plan our expenditure and match it to ticket sales and sponsorship – the latter being a new area for us.

The best aspect of being part of St George’s for me is the sheer energy and enthusiasm that pervades the whole group. There’s a great mix of long term members and new people joining all the time. Everyone is up for doing whatever’s necessary to put on a great performance and it’s that sense of camaraderie that makes everything the Players do feel like a team effort, that’s fun and most of all, incredibly rewarding! I’m sure I’ll be a member of the Players for a long time to come.

So that’s my story. If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in a theatre group but have wondered what you can do apart from acting, then I hope I’ve given you a snapshot of the variety of roles that go on behind the scenes. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll be “in front of the scenes” too….