Parkes Musical & Dramatic Society

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History Part 8 - Drama Festival

The management of the Society had been progressing nicely under the leadership of Des Maguire, however when he resigned at the end of 1959, Kevin O’Connor was elected new President but unfortunately he relinquished the position at the end of the year, so Bob Waters was asked to take on the job and guide the Society through the next two years of hectic activity.

With the Central West Drama Festival due to be held in September 1962, the committee was flat out putting the final touches to the dressing room extension, plastering the walls, installing mirrors and lights and plumbing water to a basin in one of the rooms. The mirrors were donated by Con Diamond, one of the local chemists, from his shop renovation.


Kay McLachlan, Festival Director, ably assisted by Bill Soeder, Les Neilsen , Jan Champion and Betty Spicer, did a terrific job organizing sixteen plays over four sessions, from eleven drama groups. The Northbridge Players, Bathurst Teachers College and Societies from Lithgow, Coonabaraban, Mudgee, Bathurst, Portland, Orange, Grenfell, Trundle and Parkes participated over the weekend. The adjudicator was Mrs Peter Scott ( Rilla Stephens ), a well known actress and drama teacher, in both New Zealand and Australia. Also in attendance was the Honorary Director of the British Drama League, Ms E Tildesley, who opened the Festival and stayed to enjoy the whole weekend.

The weekend was a huge success due to the generous contributions from Council, Apex, CWA, Leagues, Lions, Ex Service Clubs and local Business Houses and especially the Cuthbert family who billeted the adjudicator’s family. Members of the Society were asked to look after the visiting players to ensure they enjoyed their stay in Parkes. The weekend finished with a fellowship get together on the Sunday at the end of the proceedings.

The overall winning play was “The Women at the Tomb”, staged by Bathurst Teachers College. Parkes was very successful winning six awards, five of which were for “The Trapper”, runner up and best Australian Play, best producer, Pat Millthorp, best actor, Merv Grant, best actress Gillian Auhl. The award for a play by local author had no fewer than five entries from around the area and was won by Marion Ord, a Mandagery local for her play “The Man of Business”. While the Festival weekend was a big effort for the Society, members still managed to finish the year with a revue “Hook Line and Sinker “.

Early in 1963 Bob Waters stepped down as President after two years and Zillah Grinter was elected the new president, her main love however was acting, so she stepped down from the Presidency with Bob Waters completing the rest of the year. Joan Tucker directed two plays, “Jane Steps Out” and “A Lady Mislaid” with Zillah appearing in both productions while Pat Millthorp directed “A Spring Song” and “The Man Who Came To Dinner”. New Faces that appeared in most of these productions, were Tony Crowley, Anne Grant and Vanessa Arndell. At the end of the year the Society produced “Variety 63”, directed by Les Fellows. The cast included Les’s wife Jean and his brother Dereck plus many of the regulars including local identity Warren Blatch . Members enjoy these revues as they are light hearted fun. Des Maguire, a stalwart of the Society, was stage manager for every production that year , while Michael Parkin shared the lighting with Brian Armstrong and George McKenzie.

1964 was to see the musical “ The Desert Song “ in May, a Night of One Act Plays in September and finally the pantomime “Cinderella “ in December to round off another busy year ahead.

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