The Taunton Thespiansby John Wilkins (writing as Chairman, 1966)
Part 5: Phœnix from the flames
Now, if ever, was the time to seek the realisation of a long-cherished dream, the acquisition of a home of our own. For this we had been saving for years, but the longer we waited the more expensive became land and building. We could have managed that very small theatre, but that would be no good without the ancillary rooms for other activities. Consequently, we looked hopefully at the efforts of Miss Ewing and the Taunton Arts Centre Association to induce the Town Council to adapt an existing building as a little theatre. But it was no good; the old Town Mill by the riverside was demolished, and that disused eighteenth century chapel, full of character, was regarded as a structural menace. Then, in the black-out of frustration some unseen benevolent electrician switched on a couple of spots; the Council announced its decision to build a splendid civic theatre, and we found a big old Georgian House, condemned for housing, but just what we wanted, and could afford. Though the former still awaits the end of squeeze and freeze, Thespian House, restored and redecorated, much by voluntary labour, is in full swing. Here the Society's hundred Active Members can pursue their interests under one roof, and can invite some of the two hundred Associate Members to play-readings or talks. In addition to lounge, two rehearsal rooms, "Pleiades" club room, and store rooms for each department, we have built on a large workshop and scenery store. And there is still room in the garden for that miniature theatre, if it ever comes.
The Society has now settled down to a regular rhythm, with, in general, a middle-of-the-road policy in choice of play. And if the coffers were filled with "The Amorous Prawn," we are glad to play "Uncle Vanya" to a smaller but discriminating audience. In a few year's time the big challenge will come with the completion of the Civic Theatre. This will not take the form of any sterile rivalry with professional companies, whom Taunton should be glad to welcome, but rather in a determination to present productions of the highest possible standard, either independently or, maybe, in association with other Taunton drama groups.
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