Meet Our Members
Today we talk to... Beth Duce
Beth as Ranyevskaya in our production of 'The Cherry Orchard'
How did you become interested in Amateur Dramatics?
From the age of eight, I went to weekly drama classes and individual speech and drama lessons at the Yorkshire College of Music & Drama in Headingley. I had a great teacher called Bill Robinson and I have very fond memories of my lessons with him. In winter, I used to arrive early on dark evenings and he had usually been teaching all afternoon. I would knock on his door and enter to see him feeding his gas fire with a shiny new 10p piece so we didn't freeze. It was from him that I gained my passion for all things theatrical: he had a fully operational model of a miniature theatre which gave me lots of creative ideas for lighting, sound effects and scene changes!
My school friend Deborah Carr was also passionate about "the stage". She used to adapt musical and drama scripts which we produced with other friends in the large attic of her house in Headingley. Her father had built a full size stage with wings. It even had its own trap door – it certainly got a bit crowded backstage but we loved every minute! Auntie Rene used to play the piano and in the interval Deborah's mum served soft drinks and ice creams from a bar at the back of the room.
So where did it go from there?
In 1975, I joined Leeds Arts Theatre who performed regularly at The Leeds Civic Theatre. Green Room activities and rehearsals were held in Stansfield Chambers on Great George Street, Leeds. In those days, you didn't get to audition for a part until you'd earned your spurs backstage and it took a long time for me to familiarise myself with the workings of what was a very large theatre. I also used to prepare and paint scenery for our productions in what had originally been the Gaumont Theatre across the road. I spent many a weekend happily up to my ears in paint! In 1978 I joined Headingley Operatic Society and in 1982, encouraged by Brian Stead (a former member of Leeds Arts Theatre & Adel Players) I joined a drama group nearer home called "West Park Players". When my daughter, Helen, was born in the spring of 1986, theatre took a back seat and apart from the occasional opportunity in PTA reviews, I became a full-time mum.
How and when did you discover Adel Players?
In the late 1990s, my husband, Arthur, and I used to go to see our friends Anne and Mike Andrews appearing with Adel Players. In 2002, I approached Mike as I really wanted to take up my hobby again and soon after, I decided to join. I jumped straight in at the deep end with my first role as a psychiatrist in The Devil at Midnight by Brian Clemens, with Mike playing my husband.
What different roles have you performed within the group?
As well as acting and more recently directing my first play, I enjoy designing and painting sets and scenery. I helped to create the set for Snake In The Grass where in a corner of the garden there was an old tennis court and a dilapidated, long-forgotten summerhouse. I set about distressing a new summerhouse which involved daubing wet mud & moss onto new timber, painting mould & mildew and imitating slime with paint on the roof & panelling. Masses of weeds & dead leaves were brought in by members but I remember everyone being very pleased with the end result! Over the years, I've also helped with props and remember one memorable production of Lady In The Van when I enjoyed creating Miss Shepherd's absolutely filthy duvet & pillows with multi coloured stains... Later that year I had to create a bomb site outside a window for Taking Sides and we all spent weeks raiding skips and waste sites collecting old bricks & ironwork to ensure the whole effect looked as authentic as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed designing and decorating our most recent set for the production of Arsenic & Old Lace. When it proved too difficult to find period wallpaper, I resorted to hand-printing it!
What was your favourite production you have been involved with?
My favourite acting role was as Madame Ranyavskaya in The Cherry Orchard. As assistant director, it was Allo, Allo. For props, it was Lady In The Van and in January 2012, I directed Blithe Spirit which was such a rewarding experience in every possible way.
Beth's set design for her directorial debut, "Blithe Spirit"
Indulge a memory and tell us about a special time or funny incident that you have from Adel Players?
There have been too many funny experiences to single out just one, but perhaps my most stressful moment was when I appeared in the comedy Nobody's Perfect playing the role of a feminist journalist. The lights went up on me typing on my laptop and to my horror, less than three feet in front of me, were all eight members of my book group. That was a very scary first experience of playing in the round!
What makes Adel Players special or surprising?
Without doubt, the people are what make Adel Players so special – their total commitment in making a production the best it can possibly be makes every production a memorable one.
How has Adel Players improved your life?
My ambition as a young teenager to go to drama school was never fulfilled due to parental pressure to pursue a 'safe' career. However, years later, remembering my dear drama teacher's words - "always get fully involved in every aspect of theatre" -I think I have taken his advice and now experience the real sense of belonging to the very happy family that is Adel Players. That definitely enriches my life.
Where do you see Adel Players in 10 years' time?
When I joined 10 years ago, the membership was relatively small and we were limited to fairly small cast plays. Over the last five years, Adel Players has grown rapidly and I'm hoping that in another 10 years' time, we will still be growing and even more successful in offering high quality productions of drama and comedy to the local community and beyond.
Want to get to know more of our members? Go to our Archive page at Member Profiles