Our current chair, Madeline Harmer, explains how she found the Pied Pipers of Cambridge, why she stuck with them, and why she's excited for the year ahead!
OK – so I never imagined that I would be in my eighth decade of life and be asked to write the first instalment of a blog, but here goes!
I had only ever acted in plays until 16 years ago when I moved to the Cambridge area. I was recruited for my acting ability into the cast of Annie at the Corn Exchange, and a passion was ignited which has bought me countless hours of joy and camaraderie since.
For me, as an ensemble member, it was liberating to be directed and choreographed into positions as part of a large picture, rather than carry the responsibility of an actor alone on the stage, or as part of a small cast where you can pretty much wander the stage providing you don’t block anyone else.
I did two shows at the Corn Exchange, under the direction of the legendary Frances Brownlie, then learned of a group called the Pied Pipers, who were holding auditions for Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. I went along and was cast as Evangeline Harcourt, mother of Hope. My first entrance onstage was with my pet dog ‘Cheeky’ (beautifully constructed by the then Sarah Phelps) tucked under my arm ready to encounter her suitor, Elijah Whitney, with his stuffed Bulldog. The two dogs playfully ‘attacked’ each other – except for the performance when I forgot to collect Cheeky, so the actor playing Elijah, with great aplomb, staged a one-sided dog fight!
I found the Pied Pipers incredibly friendly and welcoming as a group, and I have continued to perform with them ever since (with the occasional return to a play). Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reprising my role as Evangeline Harcourt – as did the original Cheeky (though he did need a bit of repair… Thank you Pippa Taylor!).
I have also had the privilege of being on the club’s committee for ten years, and have been Chair for the past two. Being part of a club committee is fun, but it is also a lot of hard work and, as older members step down, it is not always easy to find new ones.
However, I am delighted that the majority of committee positions are now filled by younger people who have innovative ideas and the energy to see them into fruition – such as Megan and Emma, the two members of our new publicity & social team you can see in the photos here. Pied Pipers was formed in 1951 and, if it is to survive and adapt to the challenges of changing times, it needs a new generation of members and performers.
2019 holds the promise of a very special year for Pied Pipers, as we are planning two very different shows. In March, Green Day’s American Idiot – a young, high energy punk/rock opera, which should attract diverse performers and audiences.
Then, in September, Pied Pipers will perform Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for two weeks. Not generally available to amateur groups, the show has been opened up in celebration of the show's centenary. Hundreds of groups applied and we are thrilled to have been chosen. Very exciting! Can a vintage car fly in the ADC Theatre? A challenge to all you techie folk out there...!
One thing that has remained constant within the club is its friendliness and welcoming approach to new members. We have fun performing together and socialising between shows so do come and join us. Details of events can be found on our website, www.piedpipers.co.uk
Chair of the Pied Pipers 2017-19