National Community Theatre Conference
11:00am to 10:00pm on 15th September 2018
To mark one year since the death of playwright and practitioner Ann Jellicoe we were delighted to host, in partnership with Dorchester Arts, the First National Community Theatre Conference, to be held at the Corn Exchange, Dorchester on Saturday September 15th, 2018.
The conference brought together practitioners, community workshop leaders, academics, students and anyone with a passion for community theatre. At a time of austerity, severe cuts to the arts, and at such a politically rich time, the aim of the day was to discuss Ann Jellicoe’s legacy, to explore current modes of working, and to look to the future and discuss the next steps for work of this kind.
It was hosted by Stephanie Dale, playwright of Spinning the Moon, the 7th Dorchester Community Play. We welcomed David Edgar, one of the UK’s leading political playwrights as our opening speaker and Jon Oram, Artistic Director of Claque Theatre as key note speaker on the work of Ann Jellicoe.
Ann Jellicoe was the first woman to have a play on the main stage at the Royal Court Theatre and as a result of a desire to live in the countryside, she unwittingly created a new, dynamic form of theatre in her daughter’s school.
Ann’s form of community theatre involves hundreds of local people coming together to put on a play about its past. The community work with a team of professionals, such as a set designer, director and stage manager, who ensure that the work is of the highest standard.
Anyone who has been involved with work of this kind will testify that it’s “life changing.”
After 35 years there are generations of women – such as the Ansell family whose grandmother, mother and granddaughters - have acted in the plays together.
Dorchester's Community Plays
Uniquely, over the past thirty years we have staged 6 community plays, and in 2020 we will be staging Spinning the Moon by Stephanie Dale. This is Stephanie’s second time under commission with us – she co-wrote A Time to Keep with David Edgar in 2007.
Spinning the Moon is set in Dorchester in 1485. Echoing our current political and social climate, the play is based on conflated, real events which took place, in Dorchester, across a 50-year period. It explores the collapse of the manor houses and the rise in popularity to sheep farming, which in turn saw many people turned off the land and made homeless. It was a period of political and financial insecurity, which saw many people turning to desperate measures in a bid to survive. Witchcraft was also on the increase, as was punishment for being involved in such activities, as more and more people needed someone to blame for the breakdown of their society.