Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

In the Spotlight

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

In the Spotlight

Article excerpt

RECENTLY we featured The Globe Theatre in Stockton, and many people contacted Remember When with their memories of this once proud theatre.

However, once there were several others including the Castle Theatre and the Hippodrome where the Arc stands today.

Theatres may come and they may go, but the art is still kept flourishing in the drama groups of ordinary local people.

Today we have a look at one of the most successful of these groups, The Stockton Stage Society which will be celebrating an astonishing 90 years of existence next year.

The society was formed in 1920 as "an educational and musical institution, and it is considered a town's movement" - so said the programme of the first production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeoman of the Guard.

The society gained its first members by placing advertisements in the North Eastern Daily Gazette, as the Evening Gazette was then named.

This not only involved people who wanted to appear on stage but all the support workers and stage hands as well.

Such was the response it was clear that there was a popular need for such a drama group.

The Evening Gazette has reported many times on the activities and the ups and the downs of the society.

In 1973 a crisis arose when the Hippodrome, the theatre where the society had performed for the past 50 years, was closed down and converted into a three-screen cinema.

Finding itself homeless the society made an approach to the Forum theatre at Billingham.

It took two years of negotiation but the move to the Forum eventually turned out to be a happy one.

Audiences were high, often selling out completely and the success and popularity of the society's productions led to a partnership with the Forum, which has lasted to the present day.

The Stockton Stage Society has been the launch pad of several professional careers, most famously Jamie Bell of Billy Elliott fame.

He appeared as an orphan in a production of Oliver!

Another talented home-grown star is opera singing diva, Suzannah Clarke.

Other names from the society have appeared on the West End stage, such as Gerard Duffy, who was in the London production of Les Miserables, and Phillip Aiden who appeared with Gary Wilmot in Me and My Girl. …

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