Literally, wine, laughter and amateur dramatics; that’s what’s on offer at one of Brisbane’s northside community theatres. I caught up with director Jason Sharland between rehearsals this week to catch an insight into what it takes to help run Growl Theatre.
Q: How long have you been involved with community theatre?
A: Since 1992. I accidentally got involved when I moved to Bundaberg and was bored. I was asked to audition for a role in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. Expected to be ‘policeman 1’ type character with two lines, but ended up as the lead with what seemed like a million lines!
Q: What initially drew you to community theatre?
A: Initially it was just to fill in spare time, but it quickly became a creative outlet. I loved the need to improvise when budgets were short, to see people who had no experience gain from being on or behind stage. It was wonderful meeting people who were from different social circles who I’d usually never encounter.
Q: What sort of people are drawn to community theatre? Who could be involved? What sort of commitment would it involve?
A: All sorts! The mockumentary ‘Waiting for Guffman’, which satirises it [theatre], probably catches it well. There is everyone from the ‘down to earth, quiet person’ to the eccentric “look at me darling, I’m an accctttooooor” types. Every now and again I catch myself being a bit too ‘fabulous’ as a director!
The people I prefer to work with are those who understand commitment and who are true to their word, you know, the ones who say they’ll do something and they just do without a lot of fuss.
You can really invest as little or as much as you like in terms of time and energy, but you’ll get more out of it, in my view, if you commit to one group and invest time in making it work. Probably personal preference, but that’s the way I see it.
Q: What prompted you to set up Growl?
A: My old group, Bundaberg Players Inc, was a fantastic community of people who really got on with one another.
I liked that people who had other lives, unrelated jobs and no ambitions to be a star could come, join and become important members of the group. I liked that we socialised together.
I wanted Growl to be like that … and it seems to be working.
Q: What is the best aspect of working in community theatre and your fondest memory?
A: Friendships and overcoming obstacles. I have so many fond memories that choosing one in particular seems like choosing your favourite child, but our first production at Windsor School of Arts—a fabulously frivolous French farce (see what I did there)—called ‘The Ladies Man’, was a standout. We had five doors, a revolving disappearing bed. It nearly killed us to stage it but the laughter from the audience made it all worthwhile.
One of our older, no wait, ‘more mature’ actresses had a line “Monsieur, don’t forget the seam ripper” which was not at all rude, but she made it sound downright disgusting. It still makes me laugh.
Q: What would have been your most harrowing moment or biggest challenge in community theatre?
A: Oh dear. There are a few. The repeat harrowing moments are when we’ve invested heaps of time and energy into a play and the ticket sales are slow. I’m also treasurer of Growl so I’m always watching the bottom line. Subtext to readers: come see our shows – we need your support!
Q: How do you choose the plays?
A: The choice of plays happens in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. There can be moments of utter serendipity, like when one of our actresses revealed a desire to direct, and a fluency in French – that was how we ended up doing a full French language production in 2015.
I do a lot of reading of plays, usually looking for something that I find beautiful and just a little off the mainstream. I don’t try to be avante garde in choice of plays – I like leaving them to the experts!
Q: What do you have playing at the moment? What’s next?
A: Our current play is a charming 1920s comedy called ‘The Constant Wife’ by W Somerset Maugham. It appealed to me as a ‘forgotten gem’. It’s breezy and witty and actually quite thought provoking.
Truthfully too, I was looking for a play with a strong female lead, as we’d had a lot where the male characters dominated. It definitely fits the bill for that.
We’ve also just auditioned our second French language production, ‘Le Dieu de carnage’ which will finalise the Growl program for 2016.
So if you have ever harboured the desire to tread the boards, dress in blacks or learn technical skills checkout the opportunities in community theatre.
Alternatively, if you’d rather be in front of the stage and not on it, grab a coffee or wine and sit back and enjoy the show.
Growl Theatre lives at the historic and charming Windsor School of Arts Community Hall, 381 Lutwyche Road, Windsor. Visit their website or Facebook page where there is information about joining the group and upcoming productions.
Support local theatre and come to The Constant Wife
7:30pm Growl Theatre, Windsor School of Arts Hall, 381 Lutwyche Rd, Windsor
Cost: $18 Adult ticket; $15 Concession
Performance dates: 26, 27 August; 1, 2, 3 September 2016
For more information or to book – click here