Two decades on and still entertaining
COFFEE and chats between four friends 20 years ago brewed an alternative Coffs Harbour community theatre company which has been entertaining audiences for a generation and celebrates its 20th anniversary this month.
Norma Anderson, Jan Strom, John Summers and Sue Dickinson were the four idealists.
Norma Anderson was a television presenter and teacher; Sue Dickinson had recently moved to Coffs Harbour as a social workers with the Department of Health, but had trained under Hayes Gordon at Sydney's Ensemble Theatre.
Jan Strom, who had graduated from the Sydney Acting School, had recently moved to Coffs Harbour to conduct Jazzfitness exercise classes and John Summers was the English master at Woolgoolga High School.
Jan was the catalyst for the new group and as she had Ingmar Bergman's permission to produce his play, set in medieval times, it was decided that A Painting on Wood would be the first Bootlace production and an introduction tothe theatre going public of Coffs Harbour. The name reflected the fact they had no financial backing and everything had to be done on a shoestring.
For the same reason they decided to match the venue to the play, so the architecturally designed Lake Russell Gallery hosted three productions, A Painting on Wood by Ingmar Bergman; Women in Shakespeare and The Good Doctor by Neil Simon.
Perfect Mismatch by Kathy Lette and An Amour by David Halliwell were performed in a local wine bar; Family Favourites by Linden Wilkinson took place as a dinner theatre performance at the Coffs Harbour Golf Club and Agnes of God by John Pielmeier in the old Catholic Church in Hood Street.
The philosophy at the time was to present ensemble productions that al- lowed the group to share the onerous role of director.
Women in Shakespeare and The Good Doctor were most successful at achieving this aim.
Actor, set builder and stage manager Bernard Bracks and artist and set designer Chris Dunkin then joined the group and are still remembered for the inspirational set they built for Money and Friends.
English master at Orara High School John Doherty and recent university graduate Merryn Crocker also joined the group, which could not have existed without the help of backstage crews, front of house workers and actors and to them belongs credit for the success and high standards of Bootlace Productions Inc.