The history of community theatre in Bedford goes back at least to the 1950’s. Longtime member Gary Bugden recalls when a movie theatre was located beside Bedford’s All Saints Anglican Church, in what is now their parking lot.
My father performed in community shows in this theatre building, but this was when I was very young (1950s) so I know very little about this group.
However, he and many others remember the 1980s when there were two active theatre groups in Bedford – the Basin Players and the All Saints Bedford Players – with both performing in the old Baptist Church building, which once stood at the southwest end of the All Saints Church parking lot.
Members from both groups eventually merged to form the beginning of the All Saints Bedford Players community theatre.
Gary began his involvement with Bedford theatre as a member of the Basin Players (so called because most of the initial members were also members of the Bedford Basin Yacht Club). Basin Players presented a number of murder mysteries such as The Mousetrap, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Dial M for Murder.
Whether this was done to offset the musicals or not I can’t say says Gary with a smile.
The musicals were performed by the original All Saints Bedford Players. Longtime member Alleen Parsons was involved from their beginning. Alleen (also a longtime member of the All Saints Church choir) recalls how, in the early 1980s, church members with an interest in music and theatre began exploring ideas for bringing the two together.
The result was the 1982 production of the musical Oliver!, performed by members of the All Saints Anglican Church, alongside members of the community. The following year they performed The Sound of Music and, in 1985, My Fair Lady.
Eventually the Basin Players were absorbed by the AS Bedford Players and the Baptist Church was torn down. The group began performing at the new All Saints Church Hall in 1987 where they staged the musical variety show Those Were the Days and the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
By 1988, however, it appeared that the life of All Saints Bedford Players had run its course. But as it turned out, that year marked the beginning of a new era.
In 1988, some original group members, along with other amateur theatre performers in the area, came together to give All Saints Bedford Players a new beginning.
Under the capable guidance of Alan Shepherd, the following years brought a blossoming of enthusiasm, activity and involvement. The group enthusiastically staged No Sex Please We’re British, The Mouse that Roared and Relative Values. Since 1990 there have been two productions each year, and the group has also participated in the Liverpool International Theatre Festival. As a result, there has been an ever-increasing awareness of the group among HRM residents, and we now attract actors, backstage people, and a large and devoted audience from Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and beyond.
Our increased recognition and activity, plus the quality of our productions, has established All Saints Bedford Players as a respected and vibrant participant in HRM’s Community Theatre scene.
2008 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of All Saints Bedford Players. To date, we have staged over 50 productions, seen by tens of thousands of audience members. To celebrate, our 2008 Spring production reprises No Sex Please We’re British, a smash sellout hit from 1991.
2008 has brought more changes for our group. We changed our name from All Saints Bedford Players to Bedford Players to reflect that we are a non-denominational group and a true community theatre.
We also launched a major membership drive for Backstage Stars, culminating in our January 13th New Member event. We were delighted with the community response, and have welcomed over 50 new members eager to take on the many backstage roles critical to our productions. Most are now involved behind-the-scenes with our Spring production, No Sex Please, We’re British, and their enthusiasm promises to make 2008 and beyond banner years for Bedford Players.
To facilitate people getting to know each other, we’ve held a couple of social outings (dinner and a play at Dartmouth Players and Theatre Arts Guild), and are planning more for the future. For details of upcoming events check our website, or sign up for our email notices.