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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sepia Saturday: Dressing Up is Fun!

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs


This week's prompt invites us to put on a show and take to the stage.  I have  nothing particularly historical I my collection, but here is a photograph of my mother dressed up - for what?   I have no idea! 



My mother is the second figure in from the left - looking very trim and elegant even in that boyish costume. 
But what are they dressed up for?  There is a  clue on the back - with the name of  a photographer in Stirling (Scotland). That means it was taken  after 1961 when we moved north from England.  I do know that Mum went  to Stirling to take part in some regional events for the Townswomen's Guild - or was it WRI (Women's Rural Institute) -  and these clearly are all women.  Was it a play?  Mum was never interested in acting and I cannot see her delivering lines in a play. But she enjoyed singing and joined a choir wherever we lived.  So so was it a choral performance?    Italian or Spanish, judging by the costumes?  Is that a bride & groom in the centre with the "priest" alongside. Gilbert & Sullivan's "Gondoliers" came to mind, but there are no gondolier hats.  I shall never know! 

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My first stage performance  was at a Brownie's concert when, clutching our teddies,  we sang "The Teddy Bear's Picnic". Another year we were dressed in green tights and a green tunic top with green and yellow crepe paper headdresses and collars  to do a group recitation of "Wordswiorth's poem "To  the Daffodils".  The mind boggles at what we looked like!   In those days, no photograph was taken to record this happy scene!
 

Below is a prelude to an outdoor stage performance at the village gala day at Staining, near Blackpool in the 1950's/  But it was raining, so we gathered in the church hall for a photograph.   I am the little one of the junior dancers fifth back on the left.  We were obviously very well trained, all  standing the same way - feet together and skirts held out at the same angle. 

Our dresses were apple greens satin,  with silver cardboard headdresses and our shepherd crooks garlanded with crepe paper flowers. For me, the  worst aspect was the torture the night before of having my hair put into rags, in the hope I would end up with ringlets the next day. 
 
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High School introduced me to Gilbert & Sullivan (also a favourite of my mother's)   and I was "hooked", singing in most of the operas over the years.  Today G & S has fallen out of favour with young ones, but it was such fun, happy to sing, even better to take part in a production (I always loved playing at dressing up)  and I defy anyone not to feel uplifted afterwards. 
 

Here I am in the opening chorus of "Patience" which is a skit on Oscar Wilde and the aesthetic  movement. I am one of the  "20 lovesick maidens we " - second standing figure  on the right, plucking my cardboard lyre.
 
Our affections and affectatiosn change and by the end of the show we are have forsaken our medieval drapery  for brighter everyday garb  - mine  (third from the right) was rather a garish red stuart tartan dress with a bustle and lots of ruffles which I was told to take home and press - a pain to do. 
 
 
 At University, I joined the  Savoy Opera Group and the annual G & S performances were the highlight of my year.  I loved taking part in them - the dressing up (the girls made their own costumes), the singing and some dancing, plus the camaraderie and friendships built up over intensive rehearsals.   We thought we were great! 
 
 
 
A programme signed by the cast and production team



As one of the bridesmaids in the  opening chorus from "Ruddigore". Most of the show photographs were taken during the dress rehearsal on the Saturday afternoon (opening night Monday)  - and you can tell here that the stage crew still had a lot of painting to do to turn the set into a Cornish cottage.  
 

In "Yeoman of the Guard" with another unfinished set.
 
 

 I  am one of these "Dainty little fairies, tripping hither, tripping thither" in the opening chorus of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta "Iolanthe" -Our dresses were in  shades of blue and green chiffon with silver trim at the waist, and of course wings, plus  a cloche hat covered in petals, and heavy eyeshadow. I am in the deep green dress left of centre.  

In the public gallery in "Trial by Jury", recyling  costumes from previous productions.
 
 



My favourite "Pirates of Penzance" - and my last production


The company - In "HMS Pinafore"


The shows were such great fun to take part in and look back on  -
I wouldn't have missed  them for the worlds .
And I can still remember so much of the words and music! 

Click HERE to see other performances from fellow Sepians.

 

21 comments:

  1. You come from a very theatrical family. Love these photos and the stories that go with them.

    Dee

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  2. How well I know the fun & euphoria that comes with being in a stage production! And the costumes! Some great ones there - especially for "Yeoman of the Guard". You were so lucky to be able to have a part in all that. And I think you should still do it! :)))

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  3. Those stage productions gave everyone an opportunity to be creative and to let the cornball, zaniness emerge...a good outlet for young people and a tremendous learning experience working together as a team to make something wonderful happen. This was so much fun to read. Thanks.

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  4. I love, G & S. I have a few of the Doyly-Carte productions on cd, and a book of piano-music that I dabble in once in a while.

    It hasn't totally fallen out of favour here, Stratford, Ontario still puts on productions that are just wonderful!

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  5. P.S. That top photo looks like it could be "Carmen". Did your mother sing opera?

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    1. When I first looked at that photo I never though of Carmen, but after reading your comment I went back and it does seem that it could be.

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  6. What lovely memories. At the moment I am living that amateur life second hand through a daughter who now does a great job as Wardrobe Mistress and a son who does musical character roles -Thenardier from Les Mis early this year and just about to start rehearsals for Doolitlle in My Fair Lady early next year.

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  7. Wow, you certainly did get involved in lots of G & S shows. I'm most impressed!

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  8. I can;t stop thinking about that first photo. Carmen meets The Student Prince in the Sound of Music. Whey are so many of the ladies wearing head scarves ? I do so hope that someone can help you identify this one. Are any of your mother's old friends or younger friends around ?

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    1. Many thanks for your suggestion - I like your comment about three musicals in one, Unfortunately I only found the photograph after my mother's death and, as I am 170 miles away, I never got to know her friends in a place where I had not lived. The best of luck to your talented son and daughter - I would be a very proud parent. in seeing them in such roles.

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  9. Just love the photo of the little girls, holding out their skirts.

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  10. Your mention of crepe paper costumes when we were young reminded me of my own Red Riding Hood costume - the red dye in the paper rubbed off! I love G&S and was taken to see those by my mother from a very early age. We saw a production of the Mikado here in Lanzarote last year, by a visiting company.

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  11. Did it fall to the mothers to make the costumes? What a lot of work but they look great.

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    1. My mother had a major hand in making the little girl dresses for the Staining Gala as she was the local dressmaker. For the G & S productions we made our own or had help from a talented band of volunteers who did a great job. We prided ourselves on our costumes, designed to an art student to coordinate with the set designs. . We later hired the costumes out to other groups.

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  12. Loved your stories of the productions you have been in. I am a G&S fan from way back. Unfortunately I sing a little like a donkey, so I got to do costumes. Thanks for your memories.

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  13. Thank you to so many of you for taking the time to comment and I was delighted to discover so many G & S enthusiasts.

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  14. You really have shared a nice collection of your "career in theaters" and memories. You have such nice photos along with memories. It reminded me of the year our girl scout troop performed wearing crepe paper skirts, I tore mine before the production, rehearsing at home, which sent Mom to the 5 & dime store. She could not find the exact shade, so there I am in the photo a shade off from the rest. Oh that could have been my post today too. Thanks for all the photos you shared.

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  15. I envy people like you who are so talented. I never could sing or act.

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  16. What a fun and charming way to grow up.

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  17. A wonderful post. I think a theatrical experience is more rewarding than any sport. It takes careful mental concentration to remember a line, and skilled craftwork to build a set. The resulting teamwork of presenting a show is every bit as exciting as any sports match.

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  18. Wonderful ephemera with memories to boot! I guess I did miss out on a lot by not taking part in school plays.

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