Celebrating 20 years of transatlantic theatrical memories

A party of 20 Americans and their hosts stepped back in time to see the site where the Battle of Hastings was fought almost 1,000 years ago.

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Americans from Chicago Heights Drama Group arrive at Battle Abbey to tour the grounds and museum.

Members of the Chicago Heights Drama Group are coming to the end of their two week visit to Hastings where they have been performing the satire, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, at the Stables Theatre. Yesterday’s trip to Battle Abbey and Bodiam Castle was one of  social events planned for the Americans who return home on Sunday.

Former Stables Theatre chairman Chris Lacey led the tour of the abbey where the visitors watched a video about the battle in 1066, toured the museum and saw the battle site.

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Olivia Renzi tours Battle Abbey with other members of the Chicago Heights Drama Group.

Actor Regina Gadotti said afterwards:  “I really enjoyed it. I have been to the abbey before and I have visited Hastings six times.”

Another American visitor, Olivia Renzi, said: “I like visiting here. It’s my second time at the abbey and I’ve been to Hastings three times.”

The group visited Bodiam Castle with Chris Lacey  in the afternoon for lunch and a tour of the 14th century moated site.

The Americans are visiting Hastings as part of an ongoing exchange programme with the Stables Theatre. Next year, Stables actors plan to visit Chicago Heights to present one of their plays there.

The first exchange happened in 1999 and has been a fixture for the two theatre groups ever since. Dave Hooper from The Stables explained that he has made many great friends through the exchanges and has enjoyed many experiences he would not other wise have had a chance to be involved in including a US road trip in a vintage Model A Ford.

Both Stables and Chicago Heights believe their exchange programme is very possibly the only one of its kind in the world. Both theatre groups have tried to find out if anyone else is doing what they do and so far they have drawn a blank

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Dave, with partner Pauline, stops to refuel the Model A Ford he’d been loaned by his US host while on one of the exchanges between Chicago Heights and The Stables.

Tickets for the show which has its final performance tomorrow night have been selling fast. Contact the box office on 01424 423221 or book online at www.stablestheatre,co.uk.

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The first ten years – from 2009 a special cake marked the first decade of the exchange programme. Many great friendships have been forged as a result of trips between Chicago and Hastings.

Hear MaryEllen Fawk from the Chicago Heights group chat to Hastings In Focus about the exchange and about the play they have been performing in Hastings this week by clicking on the link below…

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