I was lucky enough to go to The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival six or seven years ago. I was a guest at the Moorside Grange Hotel before it closed. It suited our needs perfectly, maybe had more than we even really needed. See I came there with my acting troupe/ theatre group, that I belonged to in college. We went to research and enjoy the festival during that year instead of doing summer stock, which is what most of us did during the other summers.
As an student actor you love to go and see other great talent as much as you love to perform, so we were ecstatic to learn about all of the amateur troupes, where they were from, how many shows they had done, etc. In our group, we were all musical theatre majors who had only wished of going to school in England, let alone visit or get to be at this festival.
The Peak District was gorgeous and Lyme Park was of course, especially as actors, intriguing. Many Shakespearean and Victorian era films were made in that park, making it part of its great history.
The entire area was so old! It had more history than you could possibly learn in one trip, but we tried to focus on learning the history of the festival, and more importantly, the history of the comic opera. I learned that a comic opera is really a dramatic piece of work, however the content is more lighthearted. It has more depth and dimension then the average, say american musical.
Though, there is a lot of music, it’s also extremely funny. There are happy endings. Comedy is though, the most important part and while musical there is quite a bit of dialogue. This is why it requires actual good actors, not just those who can sing well. You have to be able to deliver a joke and it might not be in song.
So that was something that I personally realized and appreciated as a festival attendee. We met people from EVERYWHERE!! It was an eye opening experience and all who attended were able to see these “Non-Professional” groups and “amateur” acting troupes were far from being non-professional. I was floored.
One gal who played Mabel in Pirates of Penzance was a mobile dog groomer by day and this was her real passion. She had to find work somehow and in order for her to continue this passion she had to groom and wash dogs as a day job. This as well, put into perspective what we might be getting into by becoming musical theatre majors in college. Are British theatre schools more successful in offering opportunity for graduates? I don’t think one ever really knows the answer.
There is a lot of luck involved, even for those talented people who made doing comic opera look like it was as easy for them as breathing. I would just be happy to graduate and a get a job on a theatrical cruise ship, which many of us did for the first few years! I include a few Gilbert and Sullivan shows on my resume to date.
I have done Pirates of Penzance three times in completely different types of venues, one of them being a ship. Which leads me to another important, or eye opening fact. Just because a person is performing on a ship does not make them less of a talent!
Sad but true most of the cast members on those ships hold degrees in musical theatre and are there to make money in between auditioning for shows.