Am Dram. Two words that can strike fear into the hearts of theatre lovers. They conjure up vivid images of damp community centres, dodgy wigs, dodgy sets and even dodgier acting.
Duston Community Centre – Photo by Becki Cockcroft
I Love Am Dram – And You Should Too
But that’s not exactly a fair description. Yes, they might be ropier sets than you’d find at your big regional theatre but when you consider these shows are done on a shoestring rather than the multi-million-pound budgets afforded to the West End you have to give them credit. And when you compare your £90 seat to the tenner you’re parting with a few minutes from your home, you might want to consider the differences in leg room (the community centre wins, hands down) as well as what you’ve saved on petrol…
And as for the acting – the cast of your local show have been putting in the hours out of sheer passion. Attending rehearsals after a long slog at work, maybe getting in 3 hours a week, if they’re lucky, of actual performance time – and that’s not including all the extra time they’re putting in outside of the limited practice as a group learning their lines. And they’re good!
I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased. Ok, very biased. I joined my local am dram group this year and have utterly fallen in love with it. What struck me was the overwhelming community spirit – everyone supporting everyone else, positivity even in the darkest most stressful days in the run-up to the show, where we were inevitably miles behind where we should have been.
I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
Our second night saw us performing to the grand total of 20 people. I won’t lie, it was soul destroying to hear that before we went out. We’d been working for MONTHS to put our show together, and miracle of miracles it had all come good the day of the dress rehearsal. Our opening night had had an encouraging audience and we all came off buzzing. But 20 people?!
Rather than us all get discouraged, there was somewhat of a blitz spirit emerging. We ended up having a great time – sure the audience were a bit on the quiet side, but we had fun doing what we love. No one left the stage disheartened. We all loved every minute of it.
And that’s what’s so amazing about am dram. Sure, we might not pull in the biggest crowds, we might not be making millions on the box office every night, but you’ve got a bunch of people who are having the time of their lives entertaining others, making friends, being creative, and doing all of it for the love of it. And – judging by the responses from the audience after each show – not doing too shabby a job either.
I Love Am Dram – And You Should Too
So when you see a poster go up in your local chippy/newsagent/hair dressers/supermarket advertising your local group’s next show – why not give it a go? Chances are it’ll be cheaper than a trip to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster (especially when you factor in popcorn costs these days…), and there is nothing in the world like the feeling of anticipation as the lights go up on the stage.
Or perhaps, if you’ve got a few evenings a week spare, you could get involved? Northampton is rich in Am Dram, with practically every village represented by at least one group (you can check them all out at DramaGroups) – drop them an email and offer to help out. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t.
It’s been a few weeks now since our performance, and it feels like a lifetime. I am itching to get started on our next production – Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. Read through and audition dates seem miles off, but we’ve our first marketing meeting in a week or so – it’s time to get the ball rolling all over again. And I cannot wait!
Becki is a Mum of 1 and theatre lover originally from Birmingham. She’s a photographer and you can find her rambling on Twitter here: @beckicockcroft. As well as being the Founder and Managing Editor for On Stage Northants, she is also the Marketing Manager for Duston Players