Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Leading Lady - An Interview With Sarah Scotcher

As one of our founding members, Sarah Scotcher is undeniably passionate about the Wight Strollers. In fact, most of her time is spent writing the script, directing rehearsals, casting, producing shows, making lighting plots… the list goes on. 

Sarah is a true Island theatre legend, playing glamorous princesses, wicked baddies, mullet-wearing Aussies, grumpy dwarfs, and even a tree! 

I’ve chatted with Sarah to find out a bit more about her thoughts and feelings, on and off stage… 

Let’s start simple - how did you first get into The Wight Strollers?
I was very badly bullied at the age of 8, so my Mum took me to see one of Nesta Meech’s pantomimes, as a treat. I turned to her and said “I want to do this.”
I went along, and absolutely loved it. As time went on, I found that I was very natural on the stage and, as they say, the rest is history. 

In 2008, you took on the mammoth role of directing. How did you feel going into it?
I ended up making a few changes, which weren’t necessarily popular with everyone, and to start with there was some uncertainty. But I felt the company needed it - we needed to start growing. And the show that came out of it was excellent! It’s slightly bittersweet, because my Mum died in the January… which made it tricky for myself, Emily and Ed. But we performed. And it was a brilliant show. 

I do know the answer to this question… but I’m going to ask it anyway!! What was the most difficult show for you?
It was, without a doubt, Priscilla. But… it was my idea to do it! I had to pitch it to the committee, and of course they thought I knew what I was doing. I genuinely had no idea how big a project it was going to be. And how much work it would be, particularly for my friend Gerry (Tulloch). It was huge for costumes. I will never forgive myself for that! 

And what about your proudest moments?
Joseph, for sure. It was the first time the Strollers had done a musical. I was just so immensely proud of it. I have never been involved in a show that had quite so much of a feel-good factor for it. Off stage, on stage, backstage. It was purely joyful. 
Another one has to be the time I got my first ‘real’ laughs. I was playing Willie, in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood (1999). 

I mentioned earlier that you write the scripts - why did you start to do that?
I started doing it originally with Mike Sutcliffe because I was simply bored of most pantomime scripts. Of course, it saves money too, which means more for our charities! It eventually evolved to Emily and I writing them, which is just lovely. We’re in the same location, which is easier, and she brings different things to the table. It comes out pretty good! 

Another hard question - but what do you love about performing? 
Oh gosh… I’m stumped for words! I suppose it’s mostly the camaraderie. I don’t know, I just know that I love it. I just know that it makes me feel uplifted - it's a bit like a drug, I suppose. Because I’m always full of self doubt, putting it to the audience for the first time is always hard. But the reaction afterwards is pure happiness. 

Why is the Strollers so important for young people?
Just seeing my own children going through it and becoming confident people with all age groups is testament to the Strollers. It sounds corny, and I know others have said it, but it’s all about family. When The Wight Strollers first formed, it was all about family and it still is now. It’s a huge confidence booster for kids. It's rare for a company to give all of their junior members as many chances as we do. It’s because we love it. 

Do you have any advice for young people in theatre? 
No-one is bigger than the whole show. Whether you are sweeping the stage or top of the bill, everyone is important. And I truly believe that. Also, never stop learning. 

Brilliant advice. Lastly, if you can tell me, why is the Strollers so special?
I absolutely adore it. I love the people, I love the values behind it, I love that I can be with friends doing what I love. There’s a whole load of love! That’s it in a nutshell. I’m passionate about it. 

From myself, and the company, a huge thank you for your dedication, passion and talents to the Wight Strollers. We really wouldn’t be where we are without you. 

You really are the woman that makes the Wight Strollers tagline true - ‘Professional quality at amateur prices’! Thank you. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Meet Our Music Maestro - An Interview With Kim Ball

Kim Ball is a well-known name across Island Theatre groups, performing in plays and musicals, playing in orchestras, conducting orchestras and being musical director for shows. 

Kim is also a highly-valued member of the Wight Strollers, who makes arrangements specially for us - some have no sheet music and are sometimes from a song found on YouTube, but wherever the song is from each arrangement is as gorgeous as the last!  Meet our Music Maestro! 

Starting simply - How did you first get into the Wight Strollers?

I was MDing (musical director-ing!) the musical Oliver! for the Island Savoyards, and Emily and Sarah (Scotcher) were in it. I think they had sized me up and eventually asked me to MD for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat for the Strollers. And that, as they say, is where it all starts!

And how do you find MDing pantomimes instead of musicals?

It's a completely different type of challenge, because it means finding the music and making arrangements. Usually if Emily is around, it involves doing it from a video, which is a huge challenge, but one I definitely enjoy!

Do you have a favourite arrangement or song we've done that you always go back to?

Gosh, that is just so hard! Off the top of my head, I genuinely enjoy villainous songs like the song 'Evil Like Me' (Jack and the Beanstalk 2017). I've got a soft spot for 'Happy', used for the opening of the same show. Primarily because it was the first one I taught to the Strollers and I still love it! 
Obviously I loved playing 'Spell on You' for Sleeping Beauty (2020) and I enjoyed the performance. That was one where I got to watch the dance too, so it was a win-win!

What about a favourite moment off-stage?

'I do have one...and it relates to my daughter, Becky! It was the first dress rehearsal for Priscilla: Queen of the Desert which subsequently was the first time she ever performed 'Pop Muzik', as she stepped in last minute! The band had struck up and Jamie (Woodford) decided to do it at 3 times the normal speed...! Becky came running off, poked her head round the curtain and said "what was that?!" - It's a moment I remember fondly.

Now turning the tables to difficult shows! - have you found any show you've ever done challenging?

My mind immediately goes back to one of the very first shows I did as a student. It was Kleine Mahogany and the music for that is immensely challenging. More recently, as I've gathered experience, all my memories as MD have been nice rather than challenging!

Let's talk about musicals in the future.. - is there a dream musical that you'd love to MD?

Hmm.. Priscilla was the one I've always wanted to do and I was lucky to do that with the Strollers. I also have to say, I'd love to MD Chicago, because I love the show so much!

Talking from personal experience, why is music so important?

Oh wow. Music is a language that speaks to everybody. It doesn't matter what language you speak, you can all enjoy listening to music and you can take something from it. The sharing of emotion without the need for words is so important. For me, music is just in my blood. 

Beautifully put. As a talented musician, you must have some inspirations - can you tell me some of yours? 

This is a funny one. If I go back and look at where it first came from for me, there are two people that come to mind. One of them was a friend called Jacqueline, who played the piano prodigiously. She used to sit at my house, playing our piano and I was always so impressed and so wanted to be like her. 
The other was my Grandmother, Nanny Maud, who played the piano for silent movies. She always played at family Christmases whilst singing Gilbert and Sullivan and music was always there for her. She always had life in her and the music genuinely came through my bones. She was just such an inspiration.

And to finish, why is Strollers so special?

Oh I'll try to put that in a sentence! I think because we know why we're there, to raise money for Island Charities, and to do that as well as we possibly can. The combination of having the drive to raise money as well as the desire to do our very best is just beautiful. I think it's the people, I really do.

Kim, you've arranged some beautiful pieces of music, as well as creating some unforgettable harmonies, and we could not be more grateful to you for that, and for being such a wonderful presence. Thank-you for everything, and for being a part of our family!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Dancing Queen! - An Interview With Cheryl Rudd

Training in ballet, tap and modern, playing flute in the IW Youth Band, dancing semi-professionally and performing in pantos since she was 6, Cheryl Rudd is no stranger to the wonderful world of theatre and choreography! After joining The Wight Strollers when her daughter Izzi did in 2006, Cheryl went on to choreograph her first Strollers show in 2011 (Cinderella) and has choreographed every show since...

Starting with the big questions! 

Oh brilliant..!

2011 was when you first choreographed a Wight Strollers show - how did you feel going into it?

Scared! Terrified! Strollers always had such a good name and had always put on such a good pantomime. I had all these lovely children just looking at me, expecting me to tell them what to was completely nerve -wracking. But I wouldn't change it for the world now!

What was your proudest moment as choreographer?

My proudest moment, without a doubt, is seeing the girls that I started my choreography journey with, when they were 6 years old, becoming senior girls within the company. 

We have a core of girls who have joined us at a young age, and it's phenomenal for me to see them do the full circle.

How about your favourite show that we've ever done? My favourite show would most probably be Cinderella 2018. My girl had her first principal role as Cinderella and it was such a special show.

Out of all the routines you've choreographed, do you have a favourite one?

'Somewhere Only We Know' from Aladdin (2015) was just so beautiful because of Emily (Scotcher)'s amazing vocal ability and the girls who danced were such a high technical standard, it was absolutely perfect. 
Another favourite has to be 'This is Me' from Robin Hood (2019), although my daughter choreographed it - it was phenomenal to watch. 
Again, I can't take full credit for choreography for this one, it was a team effort, but another favourite is 'I Put A Spell on You' from Sleeping Beauty (2020). Not only was it a song and a dance but it also portrayed one of the most important moments from Sleeping Beauty and it was just so breathtaking.

What about difficult routines?

Definitely skeletons! It was a routine from Cinderella in 2011, and we used the Addams Family theme tune...that music will haunt me forever!

As someone who danced from a young age, and having a daughter who did the same, why is dance so important for young people?

It teaches them a discipline that they don't necessarily learn at school or at home, it creates great friendships and ultimately it keeps the body fit through an enjoyment. It creates fun, laughter and achievement. As I always say, if you can walk you can dance!

The ultimate question - why do you love the Strollers so much?

If I knew what made Strollers so special and bottled it, I'd make a fortune. Friendship. Family. We're there for everybody.. I don't know. I just can't answer that! All I know is that it's special. And that is more than good enough for me!

Thank you so much for your wonderful choreography and for giving a great interview. We really are lucky to have you!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

From Superb Seamstress to Charming Chairman - Gerry Tulloch

As an original founding member of the Wight Strollers, an award-winning wedding designer, Head of Costumes for our pantomime in 2021 and our wonderful chairman, Gerry Tulloch is a highly-valued member within The Wight Strollers. 

Gerry even took on the mammoth job of co-ordinating, designing and making the costumes for our 2nd-ever musical -  Priscilla: Queen of the Desert!

Let's start with the basics! How did you first join the Wight Strollers?
I actually joined Nesta Meech School of Dance when I was 7 years old after I came home crying from my original dance teacher’s ballet lesson, and my Mum insisted on moving me to Nesta’s. It sort of started from there really...

I know that Nesta Meech evolved into pantomime from dance - what was your first principal role?
Nesta had a rule that you couldn’t take on a part until you were 16 and then you got ‘tried out’ in a smaller role. So at the age of 16 I had the delight of playing 2nd principal girl!

And then I take it you moved onto other various roles from there?
Yes. I played principal girl multiple times, always against Sue Hobbs actually! 

Have you got a specific memorable moment from these shows?
Well seeing as I don’t have a very good memory..! One of my favourite memories is playing the policeman in Aladdin with Sarah (Scotcher) and climbing in the basket together. She was doing all the talking and I was just standing in the background wondering how on earth we would get into this basket! It was really funny.

What about a favourite show? - I know it’s a difficult one!
My proudest moment was this year (Sleeping Beauty 2020). The finale especially. Not just because of the costumes particularly, but it was very emotional. And when I was there with Sarah on that last night, I got especially tearful.

Turning the tables, what about the most difficult show?..(which I think I may know the answer!)
Priscilla. Without a doubt. There were a LOT of costumes! It was a solid 9 months of work.. but so worth it.

Switching the focus onto your sewing background, when did you first learn to sew?
I learnt to sew from my mother. We did have sewing lessons at school, and I made a dress with hideous circular frill sleeves! I think because Mum sewed, I just continued doing so.

And what about making costumes?
I started that way back.. before we even became strollers. Instead of paying someone to make our costumes, because my parents didn't have a lot of money, I decided to make ours instead.

Now you design wedding dresses, costumes and costumes that look good enough to be wedding dresses (I've had a few!) - where do you think that artistic flair came from?
I don't really know actually. I was never particularly good at art, but I think it was just something in my head. Quite often when I start designing, it evolves and then it just works out!

Another role that you have is being our chairman. How did you feel when you first started out?
Very apprehensive actually! Mike (Sutcliffe) had done it for so many years and had done it so well that I felt as though it was a really hard act to follow. I definitely am growing into it but it's a lot easier now making those decisions.

Well I'm sure we can all agree that you're doing a brilliant job! Is it difficult being so involved in other aspects as well as being chairman?
We've not had as many chairmans that have been so closely involved in the productions and they were more of a figurehead. Whereas I know everybody personally and know their measurements off by heart!

Lastly, what makes The Wight Strollers so special?
I think it's just the fact that friends come together to do what they love. It's being part of that family that is the Strollers. We're all from different walks of life but we come together for the sole purpose of enjoying ourselves and making money to give to charity, which is huge. The amount we give away is actually huge and I, for one, am very proud of that.

Thank you so much Gerry for a wonderful interview, and for all you do for The Wight Strollers - down to the very last sequin! We are so lucky to have you as our Chairman.. (and everything else!)

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Head of the 'Men In Black' - Our Stage Manager, Rich Hole

As part of the 'Men in Black', stage manager Rich Hole takes on the mammoth role of overseeing the construction and building of the set, as well as managing all aspects of the scenery plot. 

Sharing the stage with his wife Kelly, and daughters Maddison and Miley, we catch up with him on the fun and terror of making everything work behind the scenes..

Firstly, how did you join the Wight Strollers?

"When Maddison, my daughter, joined during Joseph (2016) as part of the children's choir, I got dragged in backstage! It was during that time that I was shoved over stage right with Graham (Warren) and we had the enviable task of trying to work out when to throw this goat on stage! Neither of us really had a clue.. but here we are!"

You then joined us as stage manager, how did you feel when you were approached?

"My first year of stage managing was Robin Hood (2019), prior to that I had done a few shows backstage but then suddenly I fell into stage manager! It was a bit of a weird feeling. Although, Sarah  (Scotcher) had asked me, all of the guys backstage had sort of voted me in...I was honoured. Privileged really, because it's a huge responsibility under the name of Strollers. It's a big team effort."

Brilliant! Moving on, I can imagine how tough it is, working backstage and enabling swift scene  changes...what makes it more enjoyable?

"It is definitely the blokes backstage, and having a laugh. If they weren't there it would be nowhere near as fun. Mind you, I do love a bit of chaos and pressure, that's where I thrive so it's the type of environment I would enjoy anyway. We have a good laugh backstage, definitely."

Switching focus - you've obviously got your wife and daughters on stage, what has been your proudest moment?

"Seeing Miley in her first principal role in Robin Hood, seeing Kelly in hers in Sleeping Beauty and then seeing Maddison really blossom in the dance troupe, really is it for me. Robin Hood has to be my proudest moment, not just because of my girls but because of the backstage crew. It was my first year stage managing and they made it so much easier for me."

What about funniest moment?

'The final show is always funny, when we do the pranks. I always go back to Robin Hood, when I said it would be rather amusing to put a poo bag in Sarah's tree, as she was the Mighty Oak. We were just going to use a brownie, but Tony (Scotcher), her husband, actually got one of Oscar, her dog's, poo bags with actual dog poo in it. If you watch back the DVD, it makes the final cut!! Sarah's reaction was priceless and that will forever be a favourite moment!!"

I really didn't know that happened! Poor Sarah.. let's talk about something else! 

"I promise, it was funny!!"

I'm sure! So.. what makes sharing the stage with your family so special?

"It's just so nice that we can all be involved with it. The fact that one has gone into it and now we're all into it, is brilliant. It's a real family thing that we can all talk about and share a love of, it's great."

Lastly, and quite possibly the most important question - is there any possibility you'd go on stage?

"Sarah had actually asked if I'd go on stage for Priscilla, but I did turn that down. I said I've got no rhythm, so I can't dance, and I can sing of a fashion but being on stage? Hmm...we'll see!"

I'll take that as a yes! Thank you Rich, for giving up countless hours at the scenery store and making sure that our shows are so professional and seamless. We, quite literally, couldn't do it without you! 

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Our Fundraising Queen - Judith Day

Judith Day has been with the company for 28 years, producing pantomimes, painting scenery, making props, joining in on-stage and more impressively organising nearly all of our fundraisers!

From car treasure hunts, to concerts, to beetle drives, to dog shows, to cream teas, Judith really is our Fundraising Queen!

Let's start with an easy one! How did you first get into The Wight Strollers?

'I had retired from Ryde Carnival when myself and my husband had bumped into Jose Wellspring in Ryde High Street in 1992. She asked if John and I were interested in doing any publicity for The Wight Strollers and we immediately said yes. That's where it all started.'

And when did you first make your debut on-stage?

'I didn't start treading the boards until 1995, which was Crispian and the Magic Sword. That's when I first ever sung!'

Amazing! - is there a particular proudest moment? 

'Well.. I just love the strollers and we have come so far from our pantomimes. And I think to actually perform Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was one of the highlights. Another was definitely Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I just absolutely loved that. It's something to be so proud of.'

Following on from that, is there a favourite pantomime that you love being involved with?

'I enjoy all the fun that goes into the pantomimes, but a real favourite has to be Cinderella. It's so magical and a classic fairytale. Definitely one for all the family.'

Great choice! I know you've shared the stage with every one of your three granddaughter's, what makes that so special?

'Very proud. Although I've never wanted them to do it because I'm in it, I am very proud of all three for giving it a go and definitely proving good at it!'

As one of our prop-extraordinaire's - is there a prop you found challenging?

'Oh yes! When we did Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 2002 , I had this vision of all the little animals to be based upon Beatrix Potter. I had this mad brain that I would paper mâché and make and paint these animals heads! Geoff (Cox) helped me too and we did a frog, a hedgehog, a rabbit and many more. It was just wonderful! I love a challenge!'

Continuing on from props, what does a 'typical Sunday' look like for you during pantomime season?

'Very hectic! I try to get to the scenery store at 9:30am on a Sunday and help paint and build scenery, make props and do whatever needs doing. I then pop home for a quick cuppa and then go and watch the dance rehearsals, which I enjoy greatly. I just love to get involved with all aspects of the Strollers.'

Fundraising is at the heart of what you do - where do those incredible, yet slightly crazy, ideas come from?

'What I try and do when I think of these ideas is to invite people who aren't part of Strollers. Although Strollers come and support them, which is wonderful, it brings a whole different group to contribute to our cause and have fun with it! For example, when I have a dog show, it brings other people into the family that is Strollers. The whole idea is to support Strollers.'

Wow! What inspires you to fundraise?

'It's really to try and help some of the costs, which in turn boosts up how much we can give away to our charities. Which means we don't have to ask our brilliant members for too much money, as we all pay for our costumes anyway. It creates a bit of money in the bank account if we wanted to have something special, like our wonderful 40th Anniversary finale.' 

 To end our questions, why are you so passionate about The Wight Strollers?

'Because of the people. We are all in it for the same cause, we are like an extended family. It is something special. When new members have joined us and every single member has stayed it really shows what we are like as a group. It's all so worthwhile!' 

What a brilliant interview, and thank you so much Judith for all you do and have done for The Wight Strollers. An inspiration to all and a well-loved member of the company. Again, thank you!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2020, and to the fortieth anniversary of The Wight Strollers in their current form...and we're going to be celebrating in style!

The celebrations begin with our annual February Half Term pantomime at Medina Theatre.

This year, our chosen fairytale is Sleeping Beauty and it has again been co-written by Sarah Scotcher and by yours truly, tailored to the cast and crew and with all the traditional elements of a family pantomime with plenty of jokes and musical numbers and slapstick to make all ages laugh.

The set and costumes have all been designed and made in-house by Geraldine Tulloch (also our chairperson!) and her wonderful team, the music has been arranged by our supremely talented MD, Kim Ball, and the choreography is in the expert hands of Cheryl and Izzi Rudd.

The cast is filled with Strollers faces new and old, with the principal character list boasting several members taking their very first speaking roles within the company...and we just know they're all going to smash it!

Tickets are on sale now from Medina Theatre either by phone on 01983 823884 or online, or in person at the Box Office - don't miss out, and come along to what is going to be a truly spectacular show, all in aid of Island charities - more about them later.

We will then be entering the IW Music, Dance and Drama Festival in the Senior Musical Theatre Vocal Group Class - wish us luck!

Following this, we will be staging The Wind in the Willows this summer, the musical that took London by storm a couple of years ago. Directing this will be Andy Ball, who many of our loyal supporters will remember as 'Bob' in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - The Musical in 2018 or perhaps even as Rancid in Jack and the Beanstalk in 2017....or maybe even as that squeaky-shod guard in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood in 2019 - I wonder if he ever did get that shoe fixed?

The Wind in the Willows is the tale of Toad of Toad Hall and his compatriots, Ratty and Mole, and it's based on the beloved children's classic by Kenneth Graham. The music is gorgeous, and we can't wait to share our production of this exciting show with you all.

Tickets will be on sale from February 14th - so watch this space!

To finish our fortieth 'season', we will once again be parading the streets of the Island as part of the summer carnival season. The theme will top secret until our first outing - as always - so you'll just have to wait and see. Suffice to say, it's going to be colourful, hilarious and great fun, and we can't wait to see you all there.

The benefit of producing two shows in a year is that we can support double the number of Island charities, and we have decided on these, too - an announcement will be forthcoming soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

That's about it from us for an update for hop on over to the Medina Theatre website and book those tickets for Sleeping Beauty! Go know you want to!