Acting to further the cause of theatre for the masses

Theatre group founders Tony Sams, left, and Steve Mercer

To be, or not to be…? That may be the question when it comes to attracting members to a new community theatre.

Anyone with a strong desire to learn acting and other skills – such as design, technical and production – is welcome to join the group, which aims to put on shows at a professional level all year round.

The association, based at Puy-l’Evêque in the Lot, is the result of a collaboration between Tony Sams, a retired professional actor, and Steve Mercer, who has been involved in amateur dramatics in the UK and France for 50 years.

Both are brimming with ideas.

Mr Mercer said: “Community theatre is a fairly recent concept, which is very popular in the UK and the US.

“It aims to offer a high standard of production to local communities, allowing audiences to enjoy good quality theatre, which they might otherwise not be able to afford, or that might not exist in a rural area.

“We want it to be year-round, to cater for the huge number of tourists during the summer, who are often British, and might well enjoy seeing an open-air production in English.

“We think there is a real gap in the market for a wide range of different kinds of amateur theatre. We could offer it for private parties in gardens, or for theatre festivals, like the Festival des Jeux du Théâtre at Sarlat, Dordogne, which is very popular but has nothing for the many English-speaking visitors.

“There is also an open-air theatre at Puy-l’Evêque we would love to perform at. We would like to build up a repertoire that we could put on at various venues.”

The group wants to include both comedy and straight drama. Mr Mercer said: “Making people laugh is easier than making them cry, but the latter is a challenge well worth attempting. I have done this once or twice, and managing to touch emotions in an audience is an amazing experience.

“We are open to attracting French members and putting on bilingual productions.” He said they welcome those with experience but also people who have never been on stage before but would love to try.

“Tony Sams is a very good teacher with a long acting career, so this is a real opportunity for would-be actors. We are both drama nuts, it is in our blood, and we are devoted to the concept of good theatre.”

With many communities near to them in the three departments of the Lot, Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne, they hope to start rehearsals in the near future.

For details, contact Mr Mercer by email at theatrelot@gmail.com  or call 05 65 35 69 91.

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