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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 12. September 19, 1945

Drama Club Controversy — Evokes More Letters

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Drama Club Controversy

Evokes More Letters

Dear Sir,—As the letter in the last issue of Salient seemed more in the nature of a personal criticism than of the club as a whole, I am replying without waiting for the next meeting of the committee, who may decide to take further action.

The first criticism was that I had turned away a promising fresher because she belonged to a down town club. The kindest thing I can say of your correspondent is that her protege had misunderstood any conversation on the subject. At the annual general meeting a motion was passed including the drama club in the rule which declared that members who took part in outside clubs when needed by a Varsity club were not to play in any representative team. Though theoretically this would be a blessing to us, in practice we are so short of people that we welcome anyone prepared to help. Anyone who is interested in our club and familiar with our policy knows that this is the only attitude we would have on the subject. The only time that the activities of any member was limited in our club because of membership in a town club was in British Drama League entry. The reason was that B.D.L. rules state that no one person may play in two teams. Besides, as "Old Identity" states aspiring actors should not be limited to one club, but should try to get as much experience as possible.

Anyway, it is not the fault of the few who play down town that the club is not flourishing. It is rather the fault of the other 1,000 odd students who leave the activities of the College to an overworked few. "Doing a play" takes up all one's spare time for the duration of the play, and means that those taking part have to neglect other activities. Naturally those with responsibilities have to refuse to take part, leaving us with the minimum number necessary to carry on. My point is that the minimum is not enough. How can we carry out our ambitious programme when the failure of one person means the falling through of a play? Every sports team must have emergencies—we have none. People are quite ready to walk in to a ready-made club and take parts, but they won't help us to build it up by standing by, ready to step in even if they have no parts straight away.

I consider a personal attack quite unprovoked, as I have consistently failed to receive even a minimum of interest and co-operation from those whom there was every right to expect it. How can we train new people through readings when members only attend the meetings they happen to be in? How can we invite outside speakers when we are uncertain of the audience they will have? We hesitate to repeat the experiment when last year Mrs. Lloyd lectured on make-up to an audience of four. We finally decided that we could at least train producers, and left the choice of players to them, deciding that it was natural that, at first, they would need the most experienced cast possible.

Of necessity our club must be merely a training ground, because just as members get some experience they leave Varsity, and the club is at scratch again. Therefore it is no good asking us to offer something to our members unless they are prepared to co-operate in the responsibility as well as the fun of running a club. We have a unique opportunity to do some worth-while dramatic work. We don't depend on a box-office, and our audience is responsive to something other than drawing-room comedies.

We can achieve something, and will if there is constructive criticism made to the club and not in the corners of the common. Come and give it to us. We can take it.

—I am, etc.,

E. Arya, Secretary, Drama Club.

Dear Sir,—Miss Arya has invited me to reply to her letter, and I am glad of the opportunity to make clearer my original arguments. I regret that my letter, being founded on a misunderstanding, was unduly vituperative, but I feel that this was not wholly unjustified since it seems to have aroused a little belated activity in the club, and we are promised an entertainment early next term.

With regard to the Drama League Festival, I knew the rule limiting any actor's appearance to one team. Varsity's original selection of "The Rope" left me free to find a job elsewhere, having waited all year for work at Varsity. I had offered to produce for them, having had some experience, but I was prepared to "walk on," build furniture, or be audience, given a chance, and so were a lot of other people. We were treated to two mediocre readings—other clubs rehearse readings two or three weeks with great success, why can't we?—and three very bad one-acts. No major production, no Festival entry, There are a lot of very keen people in the club, but that gets you nowhere without organisation.

For this state of affairs the committee is chiefly to blame. The trouble is that, like most Drama Club committees, it consists of the best players in the club, and actors are notoriously lacking in executive ability. And it is much too big. In theory a number of different points of view are desirable, but in practice it leads to deadlock after deadlock, and nothing is achieved, witness this year's results. Miss Arya has the reputation of a most efficient organiser: with a small capable committee she could presumably run the club successfully. Varsity has one or two producers of experience, a number of actors and actresses of real talent, and a lot of people prepared to put a great deal of time and energy into the club. Since it is too late to do anything constructive this year, I should suggest a major production early next year, rehearsed over the long vacation. That might infuse a little life into the corpse. As things now stand those anxious for more experience, and those disheartened by getting none here are looking for it in town, but I am certain they are available if wanted by Varsity.

I am, etc.,

Catherine Cross.

Dear Sir,—Regarding the correspondence which has appeared about the Drama Club, the most important single factor has not yet been touched on, and that is that acting is in a far different category than that of competitive sport or even of debating. To some of us, the stage is literally the most important thing in our lives, and, no matter how loyal our feeling for the college, we cannot allow that to deter us from accepting parts advantageous to us. You will realise that I am writing this because I have lately played a part in a musical show in the city which could not possibly have been produced by the University Drama Club. No one in his right mind would have turned down such a magnificent part, and that is the reason why you will always find Varsity folk in downtown shows. We are not disloyal to the club; we will do our best to help it; but when we are offered something really important we will take it even at the risk of being drummed out of the Stud. Ass. I can assure you that I would not dream of playing hockey for any outside club (in the remote event of my being asked to do so), but a sport like that and an activity like drama cannot be compared.

I myself feel I have done my dash with the Drama Club, and it should be for the up-and-coming freshers to make it lively. A little less centralised control, a little more support from the Executive, a little more intelligent selection of plays, and there will be no difficulty about getting support, at least from the large number who, while they are deeply interested in the theatre, yet do not regard it as the ultimate of existence. For those of us who do well, we will take the chance of being looked on as loathsome by the club.

Dennis Hartley.