The Coalville Adult School Drama Group (CASDG) was founded around 1951. It was originally a founded group with the Adult School movement, along with many other groups, all using the Adult School Hall. It is possible that the group actually started earlier than 1951, as the primary focus of the group was entering play festivals, and there is evidence that the CASDG did participate in Leicestershire festivals.
Our earliest record of plays was a set of three plays for the ‘Festival of Britain’ in 1951 as seen in the poster above.
The CASDG have not always performed at the Adult School Hall, we have occasionally performed as mentioned in the Leicester Drama Festivals, travelling to Leicester on the local bus service, complete with scenery. Car ownership was not that common in the 1950’s!
Recently we have returned to ‘on tour drama’ by taking a number of productions to the Ibstock Palace Theatre to perform there. The fact that these productions were a sell out is a great reflection on the quality of these productions.
In the earlier years of the CASDG, two or three plays per year were performed, rising gradually to the quarterly production calendar that we enjoy today. A number of pantomimes have been produced which are also very successful, both in attendance and reception.
The Drama Group has always attempted serious drama as well as comedies and farce. The wide range of productions is an excellent indicator to the strength of the society, with a particularly pleasing amount of TV adaptations also.
The Drama Group has maintained a membership of around 50-60 members, all participating in the production of the plays, from on stage roles through to the production support, and even making the teas! One tradition that sets the Drama Group apart is those teas, served to the audience seating area rather than the audience queuing up.
Whilst on the subject of members, all members are normal people (mainly!) who usually have a day job too, and this is their hobby. It is quite an addictive hobby, with many members joining and staying all their life. Of course as people leave, other join, so there is a continual change to the membership, and our audiences enjoy seeing different people up on the stage. Many of our members were originally in the audience themselves, so perhaps you many be thinking about joining us? I can assure you that you will have a great time, and no kit, equipment or special clothing is required! Ask any member about joining. You’ll be given a warm welcome.
In the early years of the Adult School Hall, there was an altar built on the back wall of the area where the stage is today. The stage would then be built around this, from table tops and trestles, and a temporary screen made from curtains hang from the hall roof tie bars. Later the main section of the stage was built as a single timber unit to pull out on heavy cast wheels, and the gap behind this was filled in, again with trestle tables. These wheels can still be seen today under the stage. As the plays become more frequent, the stage was left in the deployed position you see today, and the gap at the rear filled in permanently. Around this time the solid proscenium arch was built.
Early lighting even until the mid-eighties was a set of three variable resistors, which could be plugged into a number of socket outlets to dim the lights. As the resistors were so large, a cut down broom handle was pressed into service for those total fade to blackout scenes. These resistors certainly made the side of stage areas warm!
Around this time, the actual lighting comprised 3 stage spots mounted out in the hall, and 4 floodlights made from old biscuit tins. These lights were connected with thin two core cabling, with ‘NCB’ stamped on it. It is suspected that this was National Coal Board shot firing cable, which some enthusiastic member had no doubt ‘borrowed’ from his place of work! Rest assured all traces of this style of ‘make do and mend’ are now in the drama group museum!
As the on stage area was originally separated from the stage sides, the prompt would signal cues to the lighting operator at the side of the stage by pulling a piece of string attached to a small weighted flag. Very low tech, but it all worked well for many years. More recently a control box was built at the rear of the hall, allowing the lighting and sound operators a clear view of the stage. This box was extended in 2003 to accommodate the new lighting control board, and there are plans to extend this again soon.
Over the years, the Drama Group has continually improved the stage technical equipment, the lighting, the costumes, and scenery, all to support improvements in the quality of the plays offered. This continual improvement carries on today. In 2010, we renamed the Drama Group to ‘Coalville Drama Group’ and the hall to the “Old School Theatre Hall’.
The choice of plays and productions is unique in the field of amateur dramatics, where the director/producer chooses and casts his play. This method of working does ensure that we have avid and passionate directors who believe in their play, rather than committee chosen plays looking for a director to produce them. We believe this certainly gives us an edge in the plays we can offer, and looking back through our past play catalogue, it is fantastic to see the wide range of types of plays we have tackled. It is wonderful to have presented over 250 productions to our loyal audiences, and we look forward to many more years of drama, laughter and fun.