Sunday, 24 March 2019

After 30 years, actors have their own studio

After 30 years, actors have their own studio

A SPECIAL afternoon tea was held to celebrate the purchase of the studio that is home to the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.

The event was also a tribute to Sandra Moon, who had paid to build the venue next to the Kenton Theatre in New Street on behalf of the group.

Since then she has been repaid £1,000 every January with money raised by the society’s various productions throughout the year.

The final payment was made last month and the studio is now wholly owned by HAODS, which plans to install a plaque honouring Ms Moon for her generosity.

Ms Moon had insisted she remained anonymous and only changed her mind fairly recently.

Julie Huntington, who chairs the society, said: “In 1987 HAODS acquired a piece of land adjacent to the Kenton Theatre at a very favourable price from a local builder, Martin Jarvis, who was also chairman at the time.

“Even with relentless fund-raising and lots of the hard work of the build being done by members, the society was still £30,000 short to complete the project.

“However, thanks to the generosity of, the society was loaned the shortfall interest free (bearing in mind that the interest rates at the time were in the region of eight per cent), provided the donor remained anonymous. The repayment was to be made at £1,000 per annum, which was dutifully paid £1,000 each January for the last 30 years and now the studio is wholly owned by us.”

As the society became more established, its extensive wardrobe grew and it now has about 3,000 pieces of costume.

Over the years it became clear that the original plans for the building were inappropriate as it had beams at ordinary ceiling height which would have made it impossible for vigorous dancing and high jumping. Mr Jarvis asked architect Christopher Tapp if he would do a new design and he agreed to do it at a very favourable low fee. The result is what stands today.

Mrs Huntington said that HAODS had to store its wardrobe at various venues, including the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road, Sacred Heart parish hall, Harpsden village hall and even at the Catherine Wheel pub in Hart Street.

She said: “The studio has become a major asset and is so versatile, being used for rehearsals, functions, drama classes and junior theatre schools and now small-scale productions, with up to 60 in the audience.

“The money we will now save can go into producing the shows at a time when the costs keep going up and up and there is only so much you can charge for an amateur production.

“What is not taken into account, in addition to the cost of hiring the theatre, is that everything around the amateur show is professional.

“You have to have professional lighting and also a band and a musical director, unless there are members who do it because they love it.

“It can cost between £10,000 and £12,000 to put on a production and you have to recoup that through ticket sales. The whole idea is that it is an amateur production but you make it as professional as possible as long as you cover the costs. Now it’s great to have that extra money there.”

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