Best wishes for a speedy recovery to our very versatile reader Patsy Bollard, who has been confined following a fall.
Well, aren’t we fortunate to not be involved with live theatre, so much work behind the scenes, and so disappointing for so many who have had to cancel performances. After cancelling our last Play Reading session, do hope we can meet up again on the 7th.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery to our very versatile reader Patsy Bollard, who has been confined following a fall.
Numbers were down for the May class of Play Reading, but undeterred the show went on! Thanks to Joy for managing the morning.
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society again bought many laughs and lots of talent with the society’s version of Macbeth attempting to get them to the Welwyn Garden City Finals. All events conspired hilariously against them.
For our next session we may attempt one of David Williamson’s thought provoking plays on Australian life. Newcomers welcome.
Eight keen readers participated at our April meeting. We read from the play Crown Matrimonial. A thought provoking and interesting play set in Marlborough House between 1936 and 1945 focusing on the private family drama of Edward VIII and the Royal Family leading to the abdication. The play portrayed the major constitutional crisis and the private and public conflict that ensued.
There was much discussion on the completion of our read, comparing present day conflict involving Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Jill also provided us with historic information on a number of members of the Royal Family in relation to the family tree.
Next month, on John's suggestion, we plan to read the hilarious The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomens's Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth. Some members will recall we read this play some time ago and we all went home smiling!
The curtain rose in March for our first gathering for the year. Seven participants keenly took part as we read from the chosen play, "But Why Bump Off Barnaby?" by Rick Abbot, a comedy thriller with a variety of characters. Readers quickly adapted to the part they were reading, showing their talents with aplomb as they portrayed their particular role. There were challenges galore, the play required heroes, baronets, detectives, movie stars, maids, butlers and more from whence people were poisoned, vanished and murdered before the murderer was eventually unmasked! Talent and laughs abounded!
Next month the chosen play is Crown Matrimonial, an engrossing play detailing the story of Edward the Eighth and his abdication.
We look forward to another morning of good company and good cheer.
After a long period of recess which involved most of 2020, members are looking forward to a year of creating our own "live theatre"! With some new members coming on board, our numbers have increased and our first get together will be on Wednesday 3rd March 9.30 at the U3A meeting room.
Welcome old and new members to U3A Playreading group. Unfortunately we will be unable to have access to the meeting room in February due to renovations, therefore our first get together will be on Wednesday 3rd March.
Scene 1 U3A Meeting room, clock showing 9.30. Participants wander in, new members welcomed by old members. All look very enthusiastic, in various states of dress.
Scene 2 Members seated and chat congenially as convenor explains general procedure with Play Reading
Scene 3 Play books distributed to members, play perused and readers chosen
Scene 4 Characters read from play books with much pizzazz!
Short Interval (Due to COVID our usual break for tea and coffee is not available)
Scene 5 Reading resumes before completion and final curtain about 12 midday.
I’m really looking forward to our first meeting.
If you have any queries, please ring or email me.
Jenny McKenna 0490144603
Playreading convenor Jenny McKenna with fellow thespian Joy Shirley (foreground),
Enrolment Day 2021
Our first gathering for the year was an opportunity to welcome new members and catch up with former participants. We commenced the session with a one act play “Bright Side”, a light-hearted play which highlighted the many hiccups that occur when putting on a show and the complications and challenges that can be overcome by often desperate means!
As a result of the shorter play we did have some time to discuss ideas for further plays and activities. It was decided in future, members contribute $5 to assist with postage and hiring of plays, also discussed was the possibility of attending some plays in the region. Most were quite enthusiastic and as a result we decided to attend Wangaratta Players latest production “Songs for Nobodies”, at the Sunday matinee. Six of our members journeyed to Wangaratta and were enthralled with such a brilliant and professional production.
Our next play reading will be a two act play "Separate Tables" by Terrence Rattigan.
Our thanks must also be extended to Keith Rogers who has decided to step down as convenor. Keith has directed the Play Reading group for some years and has enthusiastically encouraged us with his expertise and knowledge of theatre. Thank you, Keith, your involvement has been much appreciated and we hope to still see you at Play Reading.
Australian playwright Hannie Rayson’s , “Competitive Tenderness”, read over two sessions was an inspired farce. The protagonist Dawn Snow , who reformed the prison system in Uganda, is hired to reform the local Government in the City of Greater Burke.
The play was topical and satirical. A comedy of 2 acts, taking a swipe at corruption, bureaucracy, romance and many other areas that involved local government, systems and policies. Our play readers continue to develop their skills adapting well to the portrayal of various characters, most times with little preparation!
We welcome any new comers to ‘come and try’ particularly our November - December sessions before the beginning of our 2020 program.
Play Reading doesn't involve learning lines - but as these photos taken in early October show, it does involve concentration! Play Reading class members are kept on their toes as they try not to miss cues; to add interest and passion to their delivery, and to track the story itself.
All welcome - no auditions, no learning of lines!
Undeterred by the cold mornings, ten of our members participated in a reading of David Williamson’s thought provoking play, After the Ball. Williamson, in his writings, frequently highlights the complexities of relationships and the emotions that are evoked whether in business, sport or family and he never fails to touch a chord of recognition with his audience.
Recalling memories of the past, siblings Stephen and Judy, who live on opposite sides of the world, are reunited at the bedside of their dying mother in Australian suburbia in the 1990’s. During this time they relive their family times from the 1960’s with all its highs and lows, disappointments and achievements and bewildering changes both socially and in their own relationships.
At times hilarious, at times emotional, a deeply moving play which was voted one of our best yet, with the reading by some of the participants achieving a great portrayal of the characters. New members always welcome.
We were a small group for our play reading in June. We read a short one act play called “A Pound of Flesh”. Given the name, we assumed that it would be a tale of revenge based on Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, perhaps with an element of humour. We were so wrong!
This was the story of a family with the mature aged mother concerned that she had put on weight and her husband no longer found her attractive. While she was busy with help from her daughter finding someone to help her lose weight via pills and exercise, her mother was sure that she was being duped by spies, and her husband was busy finding some supplements to help her increase her weight as he thought her too thin – a “pound of extra flesh” was required.
A fun and short play for our June class.
Numbers have dropped a little with members heading off for warmer days!
The play reading for the month of May was “It was odd!“ The play was written over 50 years ago and although it was enjoyed by all, the difference in social expectations and the roles of the cast were of a time past where respect for elders and the authority of a parent were of utmost importance.
We will be having a one act play with a cast of 5 or 6 for the month of June and will revert back to two act play in July when numbers increase. Any new would be thespians welcome!
The heroine, Flora Poste, having been orphaned is looking for relatives with whom to live. After rejecting a number of others, she chooses the Starkadders, relatives on her mother's side, who live in the isolated Cold Comfort Farm, near the fictional Sussex village of Howling in England. Greeting her as "Robert Poste's child", they take her in to repay some unexplained wrong done to her father.
Each of the extended family has some long-festering emotional problem caused by ignorance, hatred or fear; and the farm is badly run, supposedly cursed, and presided over by the unseen presence of Aunt Ada Doom, who is said to be mad through having seen "something nasty in the woodshed".
Flora, a level-headed urban woman, applies modern common sense to their problems and helps them all adapt to the twentieth century.
It parodies the romanticized, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time with many writers. Published in 1932, the setting contains developments such as videophones, aircraft postal services, and major demographic changes in London such as residential districts south of the Thames becoming fashionable.
Notably adapted for the stage by Paul Doust, he plot was simplified a little in order to make it suitable for the stage. Many characters are omitted. Meriam's character was merged with Rennet, who ends up with Urk at the end. As a consequence, both Rennet's and Urk's roles are much bigger than in the book. Mrs. Smiling is absent because the action begins with Flora's arrival in Sussex; Charles appears only to drop her off and pick her up again at the end of the play. Mark Dolour, though mentioned several times in the play as a running joke, never appears on stage. Finally, instead of visiting a psychoanalyst to cure her obsession, Judith leaves with Neck at the end.
Our members are really enjoying this play with it’s characters and twists and the regular talking to the audience by many characters throughout the play – Neck being another one. We will finish this play at our next meeting.
We had an hilarious time with our November class. The play we read was… wait for it… “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth”. This is quite a mouthful!
The scene was the dramatic society’s production of Macbeth and all the pitfalls along the way. In reading the play we needed to be aware of when we were playing a member of the society and when that member was playing a character in Macbeth. With the first act the set had been set up in reverse, so the actors were playing with their backs to the audience. And when the actor to play Lady Macbeth got lost on the way to the theatre, the male stage hand (the only male in the cast) was forced into playing the part. Lots of mistake along the way with people forgetting lines, repeating lines, and our mis-reading of some of the lines only added to the hilarity. We all enjoyed a light very funny play to end the year.
Our Christmas breakup is morning tea on 5 December, meeting at the Art Gallery at 10:30.
This month we completed reading “Witness for the Prosecution”. With several people away, it was a small group reading the remainder of the Act 2 and Act 3. Still we managed to cover all the parts, with the major characters allocated between us, and someone always ready to jump in to cover some minor parts.
Everyone found it a fun play, with an interesting twist at the end.
This is both a short story and a play. The story was first given the title ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ in 1933 and then adapted as a play by Agatha Christie in 1953. There has since been one film and many television adaptions (Check Wikipedia for details).
So far the Benalla U3A play readers have read two Acts, the first being set in chambers of the defence counsel and the second in the courtroom.
Leonard Vole has been accused of the murder of Miss French with whom he did conduct a relationship which he claims was platonic.
Mrs Vole is his alibi for the time of the murder. Her answers under interrogation are not really convincing. She seems to be covering for her husband.........
Oh yes! And Miss French (who was rich) has left her entire estate to Leonard Vole.
We will continue reading ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ in the October Play Reading session. Wednesday 3rd October.
John (Jack) and Algernon (Algy) both invent alter egos with the name Earnest.
Gwendolen and Cecily are smitten by Earnest and Earnest who are really Jack and Algy. They both claim the name Earnest to be a prerequisite for betrothal.
Do Jack and Algy change their names?
Do Gwendolen and Cecily end up with Jack and Algy?
The storyline seems to be a mere vehicle for Oscar Wilde to make comment on social behaviours in a most witty and ironic manner.
‘Cecily: Mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted. ‘
[And Cecily does wear glasses as she is extremely short-sighted.]
The U3A Benalla play readers read this play in one session and it was very much enjoyed by all.
Today the popularity of the name Earnest (more commonly spelt Ernest) has very much waned since Victorian times. Internet research places it currently at around number 300.
Due to the length of recent plays our group has needed time in the subsequent meeting to finish them. Whilst this can be a little inconvenient our group covers it very well and the climax still brings the wonderful drama or humour or tears that emerges from the plays.
We finished an extremely funny play last session entitled “Breath of Spring” by Peter Coke. The play was West End hit in 1958, portraying Dame Beatrice and her lodgers – a posse of posh but impoverished “paying guests” who hit on a novel way of making money while discovering what jolly good fun it is to be criminals. After finding how easy to snuffle a fur coat or two carelessly left unattended in shops and cafes, they set about their unlikely new career, selling off the stolen goods to donate the proceeds anonymously to assist similarly impoverished friends. In the end, when a policeman turns up to report a fur coat was found in a local cafe all panic breaks out among the house guests. After total confusion, excuses and the police convinced that these people are not the highly organised gang responsible for stealing and selling the fur coats things settle down and house members talked about relaxing holidays overseas. A couple of guests chat about another fund raiser, others gather round. The final line in the play is “Well, my idea is this. We . . . . .” Much laughter all round.
The next play we started was “Inheritance” by Hannie Rayson, written after two of her block buster successes - “Life after George” and “Hotel Sorrento”. “Inheritance” has been described as a powerful new drama where duty contends with freedom, and the differences of race, gender and generation must be reconciled before the claims on “Allandale” and its families may be settled. Some key characters are the Myrtle twins, Dibs Hamilton and Girlie Delaney who are turning 80 in the very near future, all members of both key families are descending upon the family home in the Mallee district of Victoria to see who will be the one to inherit the family property, “Allandale”, when the ageing Farley has gone. Already our group has had some enormous bouts of laughter at the various situations and as the plot thickens. We all are excited about continuing with this script.
The group found the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie a powerful and compelling play, possibly the most engaging we have read to date. Who can forget our own Gwen Barnes as Jean Brodie and her pronunciation of 'creme de la creme'!
The play for May is Breath of Spring, a snap decision based on the recommendation of the volunteer at the Victorian Drama League. Our choice had been 84 Charing Cross Road but as it is being performed in Melbourne shortly all the available scripts are in use.
We've just finished reading 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', finding it very absorbing and powerful. The Film & Lit crew in the class are thinking of adding it to their list of films and we were all wondering if it's available on You Tube, It is... here goes!
There's also a BBC drama series featuring Geraldine McEwan which looks excellent.
At our March meeting we completed Act 2 of Alive and Kicking. While providing quite a lot of humour, there was a sadness underlying the play relating to ageing. Spirited discussion followed and many agreed the characters in the play had the right approach. Boycott “going into care” and share a house with like minded people! A line which amused many of us “I don’t want to die until I’ve finished up all my bits of wool...”!
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is ‘the story of an eccentric Edinburgh teacher who inspires cult-like reverence in her young female student-followers, referred to as “the crème de la crème.” The Brodie Set is at first dazzled by Miss Brodie’s unconventional ways and her distaste for conventional education. She instills in them her own passion for art, music, men, and all things Italian. However her excessive self-confidence also exposes the girls to a new world of adult games and boundary crossing’.
Miss Brodie's passion for teaching and extraordinary capacity to use the English language is clearly illustrated with the following outburst at the school Principal. “You will not use the excuse of that pathetic, that humorous document to blackmail me! Mr. Lowther, you are a witness to this. Miss Mackay has made totally unsupported accusations against my name and yours. If she has one authentic shred of evidence, just one, let her bring it forth! Otherwise, if one more word of this outrageous calumny reaches my ears, I shall sue! I shall take Miss Mackay to the public courts and I shall sue the trustees of Marcia Blaine, if they support her. I will not stand quietly by and allow myself to be crucified by a woman whose fetid frustration has overcome her judgment! If scandal is to your taste, Miss Mackay, I shall give you a feast!”
The play met with great controversy when first performed in the late 60’s and provides an interesting comparison with the social norms of today.
Jenny McKenna and Keith Rogers
The play we are currently reading 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' was scripted by Jay Presson Allen based on the novel by Muriel Spark. The Victorian Drama League Catalogue writes:
"Jean Brodie, teacher at the Marcia Blaine Academy, incurs the disapproval of her colleagues by her unconventional teaching methods, her favouritism among her pupils, and also by her admiration for Mussolini and Italy. Scandals increase, chiefly involving the art teacher and the music teacher. One member of her group of favourites is killed while running off to fight for Franco. Her chief protegee, Sandy, denounces her as a murderer."
"Dame Muriel Spark (1918-2006) was a Scottish poet, essayist; superb short story writer turned brilliant novelist. During World War II, she worked for the Foreign Office in a secret department that produced black disinformation and propaganda, which she described as "detailed truth with believable lies."
Of partial Jewish descent with a Jewish father and Protestant mother, in 1954, Muriel converted to Roman Catholicism after editing the letters of Cardinal John Henry Newman. She felt that her new faith contributed to her gaining the confidence to become a novelist. She was supported in her decision by Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.
The Times in 2008 counted her as one of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945." She became well known for polished, comic prose with dark tonalities that that touched upon serious subjects and explored human foibles.
Probably the author's best known and sixth novel is The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie (1961). In it, Jane Brodie, an overly enthusiastic spinster teacher, so enthuses over political-and-military commitment that some of her students become involved and die for their beliefs. The teacher Jane Brodie was modeled on Christina Kay, a teacher at Marcia Blaine School, which, in turn, was modeled on Spark's own James Gillespie's High School for Girls. The novel became a hit, long-running Broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave and the 1969 film for which Maggie Smith won the Oscar for Best Actress.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was nominated as one of Time Magazine's "100 Best English Language Novels From 1923 To 2005." Cyril Connolly 260. The Modern Library's 200 Best Novels in English since 1950.
Muriel Spark's novels The Public Image (1968) and Loitering with Intent (1981) were both short-listed for The Booker Prize. Spark wrote more than 20 novels, several cellections of poetry, criticism, short stories, biographies, and even a few children's books."
The information on Muriel Spark above was sourced from description regarding a copy of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' "published in Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1962. First American Edition.It was possibly from the dust jacket of the book or introduction.
https://www.biblio.com/the-prime-of-miss-jean-brodie-by-spark-muriel/work/57624 (accessed 21/3/2018)
‘Alive and Kicking’ by Judy Bierwith was the play chosen for our group of play readers in February. Synonymous with the title, the chosen cast took on the character roles enthusiastically. An off-beat comedy, the play revolves around recently widowed Alan, whose daughter decides he is to go into care. Alan refuses and the antics and personalities that become involved reflect the dilemma of ageing and the choices available. We all took note!
We welcomed several new members and always have room for more – no specific talent required!
Next month we will complete ‘Alive and Kicking’, then begin ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, which features an unconventional teacher, political intrigue and scandal. Previous U3A groups who have read it rate it highly. Our first choice, ’84 Charing Cross Road’ was unavailable, but will be obtained at a later date.
Just a reminder that we will be gathering at 9.30 for a 9.45 am start this year as we need to finish promptly at 12 midday.
Keith and Heather have chosen the comedy 'Alive and Kicking', recommended highly by Deniliquin U3A's Play Reading group, as our first play for 2018.
Alive and Kicking - Judy Bierwith
"An off beat comedy which shows that when a widower, a sailor, a spinster and an unwanted grandmother join forces, there is little that can stop them. Alan is eighty. His wife Maisie had just died, but despite his daughter's pleas, he refuses to move out of his house. His lifelong friend Stan arrives to provide moral support. Then Stan introduces a young gardener, who brings along his adopted grandmother, and together they rescue Louise from the hated nursing home."
About the Play Reading group
9.30 for a 9.45 am start to 12 noon
U3A Meeting Room, Fawckner Drive
Convenor/s and Contact Details
5762 6855 and team - Jenny Sawyer and Shirley Swallow; with directorial support from Keith Rogers.
Deniliquin play recommendations by author/
recommendations by date read/
Developed and maintained by members, this website showcases U3A Benalla & District.
Photographs - acknowledgment to U3A members; Benalla Art Gallery website;
Weebly 'Free' images;Travel Victoria and
State Library of Victoria