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The Desert Song - ProgrammeIn April, 1932, the Thespians moved their home again, with a production of 'The Belle of New York' at the Hermitage Cinema. The Cinema occupied the site in Hermitage Road now taken by the Post Office. The potentialities of the larger, modern cinema included larger audiences, and perhaps suggested more modern shows. At all events, the Society's choice of this colourful and light-hearted musical comedy, with plenty of movement and dancing, proved to be a good one, for it attracted crowded and enthusiastic audiences. Doubts were expressed, however, when it was learned that the Thespians proposed to stage 'Rose Marie' in the autumn. There were those who believed that the Society had taken too much upon itself. They need not have worried. Eisie Rendell was well aware by now of the possibilities and limitations of her company and despite the lack of backstage space, the large cast was splendidly organised and the show proved to be a great success.

In May, 1933, the Society presented 'The Desert Song', a show so popular that by the end of the week, nearly ten thousand people had come to the Hermitage Cinema to see it. The production, indeed, was hailed as a great triumph for all concerned The Society's delight in its continuing prosperity was, however, sadly tempered this year by the death of its first President, t e Rev. G. B. Gainsford. Wendy Wright, the author of 'Pageant of the Years' - a record of the Thespians written for the Golden Jubilee programme in 1952 - had this to say of him:

'Despite the many other demands on his time, he showed an unfailing interest and a boyish enthusiasm in all the doings of the Society, and was always to be found in the prompt corner during the performances.' There followed a period during which the Thespians seemed to offer their audiences bigger and better shows each year.

New Moon

After 'The Desert Song' came 'The Vagabond King' followed by Sigmund Romberg's 'New Moon', 'The Maid of the Mountains', a repeat of 'Miss Hook of Holland', 'The Student Prince' and 'Goodnight Vienna'.

Goodnight Vienna

'The trouble about the Hitchin Thespians', complained the local press, 'is that each year they compel us to use our superlatives, and then the next show they produce is even better than the last one, and we have no superlatives left.' Happy days, indeed, for Mr P. A. Sharman, who had succeeded the Rev. Gainsford as the Thespians' second President. 'One of the original members', wrote Wendy Wright, '(his) unquenchable energy was devoted to building up the Society to its present status. As actor in those far-off days, then in turn Producer, Stage Manager, and second President until his death in 1946, it can truly be said that the well-being of the Thespians was his greatest concern, and the structure which has arisen on the foundations he so well and truly laid, must surely serve as a perpetual memorial to him.'

When, in February, 1939, the Thespians produced 'ShowBoat', with a cast of nearly one hundred, it was generally agreed that they had reached their zenith and that if they could pull it off, this show would go down as one of their outstanding successes. So it proved to be and happily so, for September saw the outbreak of World War II and the large and enthusiastic number of Thespian supporters would only have memories to enjoy for the next six years.


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