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Golden celebration for the Stirling Players

As the Stirling Players celebrate their 50 year anniversary they reflect on the impact they have made to the arts in the Adelaide Hills.

Stirling Players rehearse for Golden Celebration

Golden celebration for the Stirling Players

As the Stirling Players celebrate their 50 year anniversary they reflect on the impact they have made to the arts in the Adelaide Hills.

Looking around the theatre at the dark maroon walls with cream trim and vintage leather seats, it’s easy to imagine the stories this place could tell. Stories of community connection for young and old.

It’s thanks to a group of local residents in 1971 that the iconic 1884 Stirling Institute building on Avenue Road was saved from the threat of demolition. They rallied to turn it into a community arts centre. That group voted for local identity, Tom Dyster, to establish a drama group for performances in their ‘new’ Stirling Community Centre. And so fifty years ago, the Stirling Drama Group was born on 6 March, 1972.

The Stirling Players, together with the Hills Musical Company and Hills Youth Theatre group are now the principal members of the Stirling Community Theatre Inc. Over the years, they’ve been responsible for up keep of the Institute and improvements including a full stage with orchestra pit and additional rooms that are utilised by many community groups. The theatre is also home to the Carolan Ballet School, where hundreds of local children have learnt to dance.

Bronwyn Chapple, secretary of the Stirling Players, is passionate about the history of the company and what’s planned for the 50 year celebration.

“It’s about honoring and remembering those who have been involved over the years,” she says.

“Tom Dyster’s contribution to the theatre is something I’d like to highlight, he was the beginning of the theatre and he wrote and directed a lot of children’s pantomimes, and then he promoted the Youth Theatre and got that going.”

Bronwyn is not only directing the upcoming performance of Live on Stage’ Radio Show, she’s also a cast member. Her passion for the theatre is undeniable and she enthusiastically explains the choice of Radio Show for the Golden celebrations.

“It’s a chance to give some of the older Stirling Players, who find trouble remembering lines these days, to be involved and have scripts in front of them, so we present it like a radio show,” she explains with a grin.

“It’s also one that will appeal to our older audience. It’s free and we want to get as many people as possible in to see our lovely theatre.”

Presented like a radio show, this production is a nod to years gone by. Think Monty Python, The Goodies, and The Naked Vicar – the comedy classics. The cast of seven perform a series of humorous skits from the 50s and 60s as if in a radio studio.

“The cast really ham it up to crazy and it’s fun, fun, fun,” Bronwyn describes.

The company are encouraging new members to join and be involved with community theatre in various ways.

“It’s important to encourage a strong community connection and have locals involved. We’d love people to come in and give it a go,” Bronwyn says.

In recent years, The Players have struggled with man power to keep the vital arts group going, but the current members are committed to making the arts accessible and relevant for all.

“The biggest challenge is to keep relevant to the young people and to put on varying plays. We want to attract and encourage a mixture of people in our audiences,” she continues.

In the next 50 years the company would like to see more community involvement.

John Graham, founding member and current president of the Stirling Players, explains how they are encouraging the Hills Youth Theatre group to come up through the ranks and join the Players.

“My hope for the next 50 years is that it continues to grow and develop and to serve the community well.”

After 50 years and 150 performances, what better excuse to celebrate the treasured Stirling Players who have given the Hills community a place for local performing arts.

Throughout August you can also check out the Stirling Players display in the Coventry Library featuring highlights from the last 50 years.

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