The Christmas Variety Show at the Prospect Theatre last Sunday night was not the most magnificent production ever mounted by the Cayman Drama Society, nor was it meant to be.
But it was probably one of the most memorable.
At the end of the evening, when ticket stubs were drawn for the door prize, the first three numbers pulled belonged to CDS members who were part of the show. They declined the prize, on the basis that cast and crew shouldn’t be eligible.
So they gave their time, both for the show and rehearsal the night before. Plus they bought admission tickets the same as everyone else. Then they gave up the door prize to the general audience.
That kind of generosity has been a hallmark of the Drama Society from its earliest days, since no participant has ever been paid. Revenue from shows has always gone for theatre maintenance/ improvement or, in recent years, toward a scholarship fund.
And that kind of generosity is needed now more than ever: Hurricane Ivan destroyed the stage area of the building, including lights, sound system, the whole array of bars and pulleys for moving sets and backdrops. One wall and the very roof are gone.
Sunday’s show took place on the proscenium – that part of the stage in front of the curtain. As CDS chairman Alan Hall explained, the present ‘curtain’ is actually a construction wall to secure the intact portion of the building.
In his welcome before the entertainment portion of the evening, Alan acknowledged Penny Phillips’ decoration of the wall. The mural included ‘just about what we were able to salvage’ after the storm, including roof panels, parts of the original curtain and a ‘man-lift’ that Ivan tossed from backstage to the middle of the auditorium.
Alan also thanked the members and friends who gave their weekends to clean, mop and haul debris from the building. The present state of the playhouse provides ‘an ideal opportunity’ for expansion, Alan said. ‘We had help with the demolition work already.’
Funds will have to be raised, of course. Alan mentioned $100,000. The idea is to expand the backstage area in depth, width and height in order to accommodate more elaborate sets.
In the meantime, CDS will do what it has done for 34 years. In Alan’s words, ‘We’ll need a little more ingenuity’ in putting on shows. Referring to a history of venues that ranged from the George Town Town Hall to school halls to theatres in the old Royal Palms Hotel and a pub on West Bay Road, Alan said, ‘We managed to put on plays with extremely limited resources and we are determined to do it again.’
Plans include a play every two months and club nights in between.
Sunday’s show was the first public event at the theatre since the September destruction.
Organiser for the evening was Regina Oliver, coordinating everything from the delicious refreshments to the provision of Christmas carol lyrics for the sing-along portion of the programme.
Helen Godfrey entertained on keyboard in the cheerfully decorated foyer while Anne and Bill Mervyn volunteered behind the bar.
Ian Morgan was upstairs in the light booth, with Colin Wilson downstairs in the sound room. Peter Riley served as master of ceremonies.
Sharing their performing talents were Cynthia Arie, Caroline Neale, Sue Horrocks, Bill Bewley, Wendy Bewley and Peter O’Sullivan and David Godfrey.
Special mention must be made of the Quappè Family. First the well-known Chuck and Barrie were joined by their offspring Teri and Zak for some stunning harmony in a traditional hymn. After intermission, Barrie and Teri sang solos, following which Chuck and Barrie led the sing-along.
One of the highlights of the evening was the unexpected participation by Mrs. Emma Dinwiddy, CDS patron and wife of Cayman’s Governor, Mr. Bruce Dinwiddy.
When David Godfrey offered one of his magician acts, he needed a volunteer assistant whom the audience would trust. When Mrs. Dinwiddy’s name was called and applauded, she good-naturedly went up on stage and took part.
Another gracious participant was Mr. Dinwiddy, who at the end of the evening drew the numbers for the gate prize. Ian Morgan was the first winner who turned down the prize, followed by two members of the Quappè Family.
After the show, those interested were invited behind the curtain to see the damaged stage area and the work that lies ahead.