Barker’s Dramatic Flair
Apart from being a teacher of Mathematics and Commanding Officer of the Barker College Cadet Unit, Sammy Seaberg (Staff 1923-1965) also had a passion for the dramatics. His memoirs describe Drama at Barker College during the 1920s and 1930s.
“I have since my very early years been interested in acting. When I came to Barker, any activity of this kind had ceased. Apparently, a couple of my very near predecessors had been inclined that way and had produced plays, mainly for the amusement of boarders at the weekend.
Soon after my arrival, a group of middle school boys approached me and asked if I would help them with a concert they were trying to arrange towards the end of the year. I agreed and we started to work. We decided on two short one act sketches – April Fools and The Milliner’s Shop. We enlisted the aid of all and sundry, printed tickets and set up the old gym as a hall with a stage at one end. There was only gas light in those days so lighting was a bit difficult. L. A. Kelynack (Staff 1919-1928) took over the musical side. As far as I can recall we had quite a respectable audience and the whole affair was reasonably successful…
The next year we planned to do a three act show but nothing came of it.
In 1925 the school held its first fete to have money to build the pavilion at the oval. This gave us another opportunity and we set to work to produce a play for the fete. This we did and played it a number of times, making quite a deal of money.
Tom Lee had in the meanwhile joined the staff and suggested that he would like to help with the dramatics. Tom proved to have a far wider knowledge of production etc. than I had. He had been a member of dramatic societies in Tasmania and I gladly gave over the job to him. Our first effort was a farce Borrowed Plums which we did solely for the boarders. Tom suggested that we take parts ourselves which we did. At this time the old gym had now been pulled down and we were rather restricted for room. The next year found the old gym standing again and we decided to be ambitious and try a three act show.
Bill Carter (Headmaster 1905-1929)had never been very interested in dramatics but in 1926 he was in England and Paul Calow (Staff 1925-1932) was in charge. Paul was very encouraging and we went ahead. Tom decided we needed curtains, lights and scenery and the only way to get them was to make them. We owned some yellow coloured curtains which we dyed, one lot blue, and the remainder red. On the red one Tom painted a very good Barker badge and we sewed hundreds of rings in rows, so that the curtain would haul up instead of parting in the middle. He manufactured footlights from mintie tins (we had electricity now). Scenery was constructed by building frames, covering them with hessian and painting. The results were very good indeed, in fact quite professional.
The first show was My Friend the Professor an American 3 act farce. Tom and I played the comedy parts and the show was a great success.
Spurred on by our first show we started on a second one Captain X. This was a very good English 3 act comedy. We made new scenery, actually we had two scenes, changing between the 2nd and 3rd acts, and played two nights.
For some reason the activity lapsed in the following years, possibly Old Bill was still not encouraging and we were content with small shows.
After Thorold’s (Headmaster 1929-1932) arrival we commenced again. Captain X was revived, but this time we decided to go all out. Killara Hall was booked, new scenery made and a good castle assembled… The Killara Hall venture was a great success – two full houses and quite creditable reviews in the local press. An orchestra had been collected and added to the success of the evening.
When Tom departed at the end of 1932, I still had quite a number of experienced actors available… This time we produced another 3 actor The Mummy and the Mumps, one night at Beecroft and one at Killara to full houses. The show was a great success. W. S. Leslie, then the Headmaster designate attended one performance and was suitably impressed.
The drop in the numbers in the school in those depression years led to us being less ambitious and although we produced plays in the following years, they were all once act plays with various producers…
When the Assembly Hall was built in 1938, it was intended that the staging should be such that producing of plays would be aided. While it certainly was an improvement to be able to rehearse on stage, the arrangements themselves were not particularly good. They still are not.
Miss David (Staff 1934) now took over the dramatics and the first play produced in the Assembly Hall was Ambrose Applejohn’s Adventure. It was particularly well done. Miss David was an excellent producer, with great attention to detail. The scenery and effects were excellent and the acting very good. Two well filled houses demonstrated the interest being shown in the theatre.
The next year we reverted to one act plays by various producers and this was my last effort. My last show was a one act farce by Ian Hoy It is quicker to telephone…I decided that I had done enough of this work and asked Mr Leslie to relieve me of it and that was the end.”