By Sam Allen, Chairman
I am sure that you, like me, are frustrated and concerned about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our amateur theatre activities. At this time of year many amateur drama groups are usually enjoying a summer break, ready to reconvene in September to get stuck into rehearsal for their next big show. But this year feels very different. There is no certainty about when rehearsals can recommence and many societies have concluded that social distancing requirements make performances unviable. It is extremely disappointing that we have not been able to meet with our friends and fellow actors. I know that many societies have been using Zoom for online play readings, quizzes and other activities, but it’s not quite the same, is it?
As we look to the future it is encouraging to see that the government is starting to actively consider how theatres can be reopened safely. And it is against this background that we at the SFD have been looking ahead to determine how we go forward. That is why I am writing this article, to let you know what we have decided.
We have looked long and hard at the four major competitions for 2020/21 (The Cinderella Trophy Competition, the Phoebe Rees Competition and both David Beach Competitions) and we have reluctantly concluded that we will have to cancel all these competitions for the forthcoming season, with a view to recommencing towards the end of 2021. There are several reasons for this decision.
Firstly, current Government guidance means that groups have been unable to rehearse which means that most of the early shows in the new season have been cancelled or postponed. Secondly, as we have already seen, Government regulations and guidelines are under constant review so that shows over the year may be performed under different criteria which makes direct comparisons impossible. Thirdly, we have a duty to safeguard our adjudicators and moderators and we will not ask them to go into situations where they feel they may be at risk.
So we are cancelling the Cinderella Trophy Competition (for pantomimes) for the 2020/21 season with a view to recommencing in time for the entire 2021/22 season. We are cancelling the 2020/21 Phoebe Rees Competition (for plays) with a view to restarting with plays performed from 1 September 2021 so that we have a full 2021/22 season. And we are cancelling both David Beach Competitions (for musicals) with a plan to restart them with shows performed after 1 December 2021so we will have a full competition for 2021/22.
Our next scheduled activity is the AGM, which will be on the afternoon of Saturday 26 September 2020. Our plan is to make this a Zoom meeting and more details will be available nearer the time. Then we will have the Phoebe Rees Awards on Friday 16 October. Again, this will be an online event, following on from the success of the David Beach and Cinderella online awards ceremonies.
The Original Playwriting Competition will continue as normal although there may unfortunately be no opportunity to perform any of the plays at the County Drama Festival in 2021 if that has to be cancelled. We will take a decision on that nearer the time.
We also want to keep our Facebook page active so we can all share news and encourage one another as we hopefully begin to return to the stage. Let us know what your society is up to. Help other groups by sharing ideas as well as resources and together let’s get amateur theatre in Somerset back up and running.
Clearly, we will keep all of this under review and, as information from the Government changes, we will keep you informed about what we at the SFD are doing.
I hope that as many of you as possible will join us at our Zoom AGM where we can discuss these issues in more detail.