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A Brief History of Codsall Dramatic Society
In 1949 Codsall Women’s Institute decided to enter a one-act play festival taking place in Stafford. They elected to do one act from a full-length play – “The Cradle Song”. When it came to finding a producer, unsurprisingly they asked the professional actress in their midst, Betty Taylor. Their production did very well, for they won the competition!
The ladies were bitten by the acting bug and spurred on by their success, they were ready to do more.
The action of the play takes place in a convent and there being a large female cast it was a natural progression to decide to do the complete play. So rehearsals for “Cradle Song” went ahead in the Parish Rooms. At this time Dot Forster, a long time member of the W.I., persuaded Betty to go along to the Midland Players, a highly esteemed Dramatic Society in Wolverhampton. There were very few cars about and petrol was rationed, so these ladies had to catch one of the hourly buses into town, and on their return they were met by two dutiful husbands. In 1949 there were few houses and no street lights and rehearsals were an indeterminate length: it was inevitable that they would occasionally miss one bus and have to return on the next. Dismayed husbands had to go home and return an hour later to meet their wives. It was during a conversation between Jack Taylor and Rol Forster at the bus stop on one of these occasions, that the idea of Codsall founding its own Dramatic Society came about. After some persuading, Jack’s wife, Betty agreed and a meeting was called for the 15th February 1949. Jack Taylor took the chair and Codsall Dramatic Society was born.
The Society’s first production was “She Passed Through Lorraine”. Betty lamented that she was short of a young man for the play. Fred Burglass, a Works Manager at a big local factory, was elected to be the first chairman of the society, and was quick to overcome set-backs. He sailed into his firm’s Accounts Office and seeing a likely lad, instructed him to come to the next rehearsal. Roy Belcher duly turned up and made a very valuable contribution for many years as actor, producer, set designer, set builder and chairman.
In those days plays were staged in the old hall at the Secondary Modern School. The stage lacked depth and was very cramped, and the dressing room inconvenient for the very quick change. The stage lighting had to be an unrelenting bright white as gelatines (now referred as “Gels”) for colouring the light were very hard to come by. Even stage make-up was difficult to obtain and of course clothes rationing meant that the actor’s wardrobes were scant.
Along with the founder members, there are many people who have a long history with the Society and there have been countless family groups and many husband and wife teams. Members have been drawn from all walks of life, chemists, solicitors, teachers, office workers, nurses, engineers, carpenters, students and managers.
At present the society has over thirty members and volunteers that donate their time. It is true that we are an amateur drama group, but we always strive to produce shows of the best quality and with the highest production values. We do make a conscious effort to be professional in all that we undertake, and we adopt the practices of professional theatre wherever possible.
Codsall Dramatic Society has a Committee which is responsible for all the administrative tasks that are inevitable in any organisation. The committee consists of over half dozen society members, four of whom are officers, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and General Secretary. The committee comprises of people from the membership, nominated and elected at the Annual General Meeting. The committee normally holds a meeting once a month with additional meetings when required.