MEMBERS of the audience may sit back and enjoy the entertainment at Rugby Theatre not really thinking about what might be going on backstage.
Reporter Alice Dyer and photographer Mike Baker popped round to the theatre just before the curtain went up to meet the people who make the shows happen.
WE are lucky in Rugby to have a theatre that is among the top ten amateur venues in the country.
It stages ten main productions a year covering a wide range of performances from classical drama to modern plays, from farce to big- budget musicals.
In 2009 it celebrated its 60th anniversary and last year it was given a huge makeover.
But all of this could not happen without the army of volunteers that keep the Henry Street venue alive.
It’s not just the actors and actresses that bring the shows to life - they are heavily supported by a huge team of directors, stage managers, sound and lightning engineers and front-of-house staff.
They all dedicate hours of their lives to the theatre for one reason only - because they love it.
We visited the theatre ahead of the fourth night of Stone In His Pockets - the main production for February. There were 45 minutes until the curtain went up and we found the only two actors in the show - Neil Morgan and Rob Sloan - getting changed in one of the two small dressing rooms under the stage.
Artistic director John Smith, 60, said: “It can get a bit hectic down here. When we did Our House we had 28 cast members all with different costume changes.”
But with only one costume each and no make-up it was calm with plenty of fun and laughter going on.
Theatre veteran Neil, 50, a self-employed furniture specialist, met his wife Judith in that very same dressing room back in 1993 when they were both in a play called Into The Woods.
Neil said: “I wasn’t meant to be in the play at all, I didn’t even audition. It was definitely meant to be.
“People meet and it’s a good social life. There’s a good camaraderie.”
Neil has played all kinds of roles over the years including the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army and Rene in ‘Allo ‘Allo.
He said: “I’ve always enjoyed acting sine I left school. Every part is different. It brings all kind of thrills and challenges.”
Rob, 33, who works in the digital industry, said the best thing about being part of the theatre is the people that you meet.
He said: “There’s people from all different age groups and all works of life. Doing comedy is brilliant. There’s nothing like being in a theatre when the audience is gaffawing.”
It seems important that whoever gets the roles in the shows must be hugely dedicated. Rehearsal begin ten to 12 weeks before the show and last for seven hours a week.
John said: “People are here because they want to be here and they enjoy it.”
Above the dressing rooms in the wings of the stage is stage manager Gemma Kettle who is responsible for everyone’s safety.
Gemma, who has grown up being a part of the theatre, said: “I’ve been coming here since I was a baby with my dad. Then I came back after I’d been at university.”
Hidden away high above the auditorium are the lighting team who also spend weeks getting ready for each show.
Lighting designer Richard Grain, who did his fist show in 1992, said: “There’s a lot of work that goes into it. We’re all volunteers here. It’s quite a commitment to each show. We obviously enjoy it.”
He’s accompanied by Mike Hill, head of the lighting department, who has been at the theatre for 40 years. Now in retirement, he has even more time to dedicate to the theatre.
Back downstairs in the main auditorium sound engineer Ursula Rutherford is getting ready for her first show.
She said: “I’m looking forward to it. I was deaf for 25 years but I had a couple of operations and had my ears rebuilt.
“Now I’ve got my hearing back so I wanted to do something that I could not do before.”
Adrian Gyles, who looks after the projection, loves the theatre to escape from his demanding job as a headteacher at a school in Leicestershire.
He said: “It’s completely different to my day job.”
In the foyer the front of house team are hard at work welcoming visitors through the door, serving in the sweet kiosk, selling tickets and showing people to their seats.
Dave Upston has been part of the front of house team for 19 years. He said: “I do a bit of everything. I enjoy meeting people. It’s a hobby.”
Hilary Hughes, who has been at theatre for five years, said: “I love everything about it. It’s a really nice hobby and you have a laugh with people.”
Let’s hope that in another 60 years to come a new generation of volunteers will be keeping this wonderful venue alive.
For more information about the theatre and up and coming shows visit www.rugbytheatre.co.uk