Making the theatre relevant – the new Stables Chairman gets to work

As it celebrates its 60th anniversary The Stables is adding new talents from home and abroad to its repertoire writes Lynda Foy.

The Stables Theatre and Art Gallery, which marks its Diamond Jubilee in June, will   host the Chicago Heights Drama Group from June 17th to 30th. Members of the American group will stage The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 during their stay which is part of an exchange programme involving both theatre companies that has run for 20 years.

Neil Sellman, the new Stables’ chairman who took over the role from Chris Lacey in March, said plans for next year include holding a festival featuring work by new writers, two weeks of performances by visiting professional companies, and a music festival .

The Stables’ company is also planning an exchange visit to Chicago next year, taking one of next year’s productions to the American drama group’s stage.

Mr Sellman said: “I think any cross-cultural work is very useful. It creates more professionalism when you are taking something to a different theatre. We want to make a big splash of the Chicago group’s visit this year.”

Twenty five Chicago group members are coming to the theatre in The Bourne, with eight of them taking part in the comedy, written by John Bishop and directed by MaryEllen Fawk. It will be staged on June 21st, 22nd, and from June 26th to 29th.

Some of the American visitors will stay with host families and a series of social events and outings are being arranged for them.

Neil Sellman
Neil Sellman who took over as Chairman of The Stables Theatre and Art Gallery in March.

Alongside the Stables’ regular programme, there will be new events: “We are looking at having a new writing festival next year. It will support new writers who can put on performances here. We are also going to have a music festival. We will have a couple of people, folk singers, who are on tour around the country and local bands.”

The programme will include classical music, electro-pop, and an evening of Cole Porter’s music.

Two weeks of professional theatre are also planned with four companies performing at the Stables during that period, Mr Sellman explained: “It is very much about making the theatre relevant and vibrant to the local community and modern day audiences. We have very loyal audiences, but we tend to find that if you go for a different approach, eight per cent of the audience is new.”

Mr Sellman said attracting new audiences and young people was the key to the survival of little theatres: “We want to encourage people to come to the theatre; it is vital for the vibrancy of the building and the organisation.”

He praised the Stables’ conscientious volunteers, saying : “We are always looking for new volunteers. At the moment we are looking for someone to co-ordinate our marketing, for example.”

Further details about membership, ticket prices and forthcoming events from the box office on 01424 423221 or or follow the theatre on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


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