Fay Rollans, caught here at the Upper Orara Hall, is an expert at putting a different face on things.
Fay Rollans, caught here at the Upper Orara Hall, is an expert at putting a different face on things.

Orara?s own drama queen


FAY ROLLANS' life has been spiced with everything from striptease and witchcraft to gunslinging and murder. You name it, Fay's done it ? right down to getting involved in a frontal lobotomy. So what do we have here in this local grandmother ? an extravagant monster causing mayhem in our ranks? Fay would laugh at that. By day she's nice and normal. It's only when the lights go down that she shows a different side. When the curtains open next month on Blast From The Past, the 25th annual Upper Orara Melodrama, she will have rich memories to treasure. The Upper Orara grandmother has been involved with the famous melodrama since it burst onto the Upper Orara Hall stage with Out In The Cold, Cold Snow. She has played a stage role in all but one of those shows. Mrs Rollans was a young mother with children at the primary school in 1980 and next month she will be joined on stage by her eldest granddaughter, Sheridan. It all started in 1980 when Upper Orara Public School headmaster, George Gelagin, called a meeting to discuss ways to raise money for a photocopier. Mrs Rollans agreed to help out with making cups of tea 'but there was no way we'd go on stage'. However, Mr Gelagin was a persuasive man, and he soon had everyone up in lights, although 'he didn't tell us we had to sing until we were actually on the stage'. "In those days there was no separate kitchen crew ? we cooked the food, set the tables, served the food, got dressed and did the show, then cleaned up," Mrs Rollans said, "I don't know how we did it." Driven by a community with fierce determination to give every chance to all the children at the little school, the melodrama has been going strong ever since, raising thousands of dollars to fund excursions for students. The melodrama is known for its broad humour and Fay was so embarrassed by one of the lines in her first play that she refused to say it at rehearsal ? or even in front of her husband. She even hoped (vainly) that the audience wouldn't understand it. But she has never forgotten it. As Fanny the Feather Balancer, she had to tell a story about the reaction of an 80-year-old grandmother to her elderly philandering husband. The cranky granny decided to go tit for tat and take a young lover herself. "And he can't count," Fay/Fanny told her rapt audience, "20 goes into 80 a lot more times than 80 goes into 20." These days Fay Rollans is almost shockproof. Since Fanny, she's been the psychic Claire Voyant in Murder in the Music Hall; hillbilly Ida Down in High in the Hills; Flo the Tourist in Bloodbath at the House of Death, and the Witch of the Woods in Jungle Juice. She's played fairy godmothers, cheeky schoolgirls, mad doctors, medieval villagers, mermaids and Roman matrons. As gunslinging, Barbie doll-hating Blackie in Desperadoes she underwent retraining by Centrelink and emerged as a singing star. Teamed with Bruce Ellem as mad medicos Dr Frank and Dr Stein in Stinkweed, she performed the 'world's first open air frontal lobotomy'. She brought down the house as a stripteasing bowling lady in Calypso Cruisin' - the audience were laughing so hard she says to this day many people refuse to believe she was actually wearing a full bodysuit. She has a head full of wonderful memories and that, she says, is the real reward that keeps her putting her hand up for the show every year. "I just love it ? the bond with the people, the joy of seeing everyone laugh and when you get told every year that their ribs were sore from laughing so much - the absolute joy of that is unbelievable," she said. Tickets are now available for A Blast From the Past, which begins on October 22 and has eight Friday and Saturday night performances, with the last night November 13. Ticket prices include a three-course meal, with the famous dessert buffet, juice and water. In a break with tradition, this year's melodrama will be BYOG. Tickets are $30 and are available from Karen Sebbens on 66538888.

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