Although there are no early records of the Boolarra Dramatic Club, one did exist before 1934 when it was reformed. Money from the old Dramatic Club, the grand sum of 9 pounds, 5 shillings and fivepence, was passed onto the reformed group.
People interested in reforming the Dramatic Club met in Boolarra Mechanics Hall on August 3rd, 1934. Present at the meeting were Mesdames Penaluna, Bolitho, Lowen, Meyer; Misses Scott, Rodway; Messrs Blake, Fletcher, Metcher, Magee, Hirst and Jenkins. It was decided that a Boolarra Dramatic Club be formed. Office bearers were elected and all present formed the rest of the Committee. Mrs Bolitho (wife of the butter factory manager) was made Stage Manageress and Mrs Meyer (Bess Christian daughter of W. Christian, owner of the shop in Boolarra) Assistant Stage Manageress. There was a membership fee of 1 shilling.
With 9 pounds, 5 shillings and fivepence in the kitty the Dramatic Club kept 2 pounds for petty cash and spent 5 pounds on furniture. It was decided to hold two 1 act plays as soon as possible. Wednesday nights were set aside for practice and anyone missing two nights without a reasonable excuse was to be fined 1 shilling per night. Any proceeds from the first dramatic entertainment event was to be paid into The Hall funds and this continued with the Dramatic Club coming to the aid of various deserving charities.
At a meeting in October 1934, it was decided to hold a Social Evening for financial members and ask gentlemen members to pay 1 shilling and the ladies to provide supper. Also, members of the Yinnar Dramatic Club were invited as guests The Secretary was requested to source ‘one act plays’ and arrange a program.
The Club decided that, when funds permitted, to purchase any properties such as makeup, a powerful globe for centre-stage, reflectors, double adaptors, flex, construction of cupboards in one of the dressing rooms and tables built under the mirrors. As the amount of properties acquired by the Club grew it was agreed to elect Messrs Hall, Mckaskill and Blake as Property Men. These properties were loaned to local bodies on condition that any breakages were replaced.
The last meeting recorded in the only minute book held in the museum collection was held in December 1937. Performances continued during the war years and beyond and then in the 1950s the Dramatic Club became part of the Boolarra Associated Arts Group.
Extracts from Margaret Baillie’s letter to the Boolarra & District Historical Society.
Memories of The Boolarra Drama Group during the years 1955 onwards.
The Drama Group was originally a separate entity going back several years before I became a member, so these remarks are observations and only my opinion, other people may have different ideas on the topics below.
The Boolarra Associated Arts Club was formed by the efforts of Hal Langley who envisaged a cultural group comprising the various clubs then operating on their own, namely; Music, Discussion, Film etc. This widened the scope for the performing group ‘Drama’ by bringing in many gifted people to help with the production and to help attract an audience to make the effort worthwhile.
Hal Langley and Dave Nankervis managed most of the effects for some of the most successful productions. Hal was the official Stage Manager and Dave coped with most of the sound & lighting effects. This gave the Boolarra Drama group a distinct edge when we eventually took our productions to the Victorian Drama League Regional Play Festivals. Dave spent considerable time at the Boolarra Railway Station capturing the sound of the steam engine coming into Boolarra. This was terrific backup for the play ‘Davy Jones’s Dinner’ – a play about a railway station in Wales. We understand that Dave had the engine driver doing several journeys up and down until they got the desired effect.
Len Hall was perhaps the most imaginative and the best actor that we had during this time and his portrayal of Dicky Back Owl in ‘Birds of a Feather’ was a big hit and had all the schools requesting a special performance as this play was part of the school curricullum.
One Christmas Len Hall put together a lovely show, doing a scene from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’, the excerpt of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ which gave members a chance to ham it up, particularly Jean Grady as Thistle and Colin Baillie as Pyramus. Also a group of men in top hats & cloaks etc. singing a group of Noel Coward songs sending up ‘The Stately Homes of England and Regency Rakes’.
Bill & Edna Sewell were among our most devoted supporters, generously loaning furniture and other lovely things to enhance the costume and decor.
I hope this screed helps you to understand the tempo of life in the feverish fifties. My thanks to my dear friend Jack McGlade for undertaking to deliver this oration and thanks to Inge Bissell who started the ball rolling.
I trust your Historical Society continues successfully, all the best to the present inhabitants of Boolarra, which used to be the busiest village in Gippsland. Maybe it still is? Here’s hoping.
The Dramatic Club competed successfully in many play festivals and were a vibrant part of the community.
The information contained within this article was taken from the Twelve Mile Peg by Roslyn Carstairs, the Dramatic Club minute book and The Boolarra Historical Museum records.