Parkes Musical & Dramatic Society

Little Theatre - Big Entertainment

History Part 1 - Before WW2

Parkes M & D have a proud history of providing entertainment for the local community over one hundred and thirty seven years, the earliest recorded information on the Society was in 1875 when a photo was taken of ten actors and a dog, called Bill Sykes. It listed their names and some of their professions, but it is not known if they were in a production or just having a social get together. However we do know that in 1879 the Society had a Grand Concert, entertaining with songs, recitations and skits while in the following year, 24th May, 1880, the Society produced “The Brigands of Calabria”, to assist in raising funds for the purchase of a fire engine for Parkes.

Cast of Pirates of Penzance in 1906 in Front of the Parkes Court HouseThere is a quarter of a century gap in the Society’s archival material until further information was available about shows in Parkes, although a search of the Parkes Library’s microfilm records of the Parkes newspapers in that period would no doubt reveal more details. Until that is undertaken the next recorded performances were Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Pirates of Penzance in 1906, HMS Pinafore in 1907 and The Mikado in 1908, all staged in West’s Hall, now the current site of the Big W store on the corner of Brown St and Jansens Lane. Charlie and Harry Bigelow, Warren Dodd and Edna Kendall were the leading players and dominated the main roles in all three productions.

The Parkes M & D Society as such must have lapsed soon after these productions because in 1913 a public meeting was held to form a new Society with many of the previous participants taking part. Warren Dodd played the Captain opposite Mrs Leonard Seaborn (Mary Tom’s mother) who was Buttercup in HMS Pinafore.  The late Ted Curr, an old Trundle resident, indicated the Society staged productions in the old School of Arts building during the 1914-18 war, travelling there by train from Parkes, no doubt to raise funds for the war effort and probably travelled to other centres as well. One of these shows could have been Les Cloches de Corneville which was staged in West’s Hall in October 1917, most of the actors previously mentioned were in the production with Gwen Newman, Beatrice Mason, Annie Shaw, Elsie Watts and E A Sykes also taking lead roles. A twelve piece orchestra was conducted by A Kendall. The actors of this period kept the Society performing for over twenty five years with the next show staged being a three act comedy High Jinks in October 1922, after which there were no more shows officially recorded.

It is assumed because local shows were no longer produced J C Williamson brought a Pantomine to Parkes Sinbad the Sailor in February 1930 using local actors to support the leads. Shortly after this the Mayor D Geddes called Public Meeting to reactivate the Society. Incidently, it is interesting to note that Donald Geddes is our current President Neil Wescott’s grandfather, a man who did much to develope the growth of Parkes. During the thirties, right up to the outbreak of the second world   war at which point the Society went into recession, there were several plays produced, one of which was Tons of Money, in 1933, the newspaper report read “The Parkes Musical and Dramatic Society had reason for developing a feeling of pride in the fact that the town possesses such an array of histrionic and musical talent”, a reference to the long family history of acting by the local residents. Mr Frank Nash found a newspaper ad. for another show called Going Up directed by Mrs K Hunter in September 1936.  It was not always easy for the young single girls to go on stage as some of the local employers did not feel it was becoming of the gentler sex, rumour has it that a bank manager told one of his female staff to choose between the stage or her job. however WW2 was to change all that.

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