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1963-1964

The year 1963 was a momentous one for the Thespians for they lost their President, Producer and Musical Director. The death of R. H. O. Wright, a member since 1912, was a matter of great sadness and, indeed, his contribution to the Society as singer, Honorary Secretary, Musical Director and, finally President, had been quite outstanding. He was replaced in 1964 by Mr K. Guyton, another member who had served the Thespians in a number of ways.

Eisie Rendell, whose preference the committee respected in changing their original choice of 'The Pyjama Game' to 'Kiss Me Kate' for her last production holds, of course, an almost incomparable position in Thespian history. Between 1925 and 1963, she produced no fewer than forty-two shows, notwithstanding the six barren years of World War 11. Now in her seventies, she had decided to retire on doctor's advice. 'Mrs Rendell,' wrote Wendy Wright - 'or 'Eisie' as she is affectionately known to all - has never spared herself to ensure the success of each show. It is difficult to realise the amount of work entailed in some of the larger productions, but 'Eisie', with her tireless energy and unfailing sense of humour, is dauntless.

Her method of training both principals and chorus - a curious mixture of sound instruction and flippancy, affectionate bullying and leg-pulling - is surely unique, and fascinates all who work with her. To say the Thespians are lucky to have secured the services of such a Producer is a gross understatement - for all who are fortunate enough to know Eisie Rendell, will agree that they will not look upon her like again.'

Earlier in the year, just before Easter, the Thespians gave a performance of Faure's 'Requiem' and a Bach Cantata in St. Mary's Church. The organist was Percy Wells and the performance was well supported by the public.

'Kiss Me Kate' was not, unfortunately, a financial success, though it was much enjoyed by those who saw it. It was the last show conducted by Peter Cooper, who had informed the committee of his intention to resign. The committee accepted his resignation with regret and thanks for his seven years' work with the Society, and cast around for a replacement. Thus it was that Vera Mallett came to the Thespians, and a more felicitous and profitable appointment could, scarcely have been made, as the years since have demonstrated. The new Musical Director was the first woman to hold the post in the Society. A professional vocal coach, she had recently moved into the district from London, having had a wide variety of experience as performer, teacher and conductor. She it was who initiated the change to an orchestra of professional musicians, drawing her players not only from the immediate locality but from London and other places outside the district.

In view of her reservations about the show chosen for 1964 -'La Belle Helene'- the committee accepted her suggestion that 'Pink Champagne', adapted from the Strauss operetta 'Die Fiedermaus' should be substituted. This was staged at the Town Hall in November, 1964, with Nan Taylor as the producer, and its success augured well for the future.

Earlier in the year, the Thespians and their new Musical Director had got to know each other in rehearsals for a single performance of a concert version of 'The Yeomen of the Guard.' This was given in February at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School.

 

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