Dear Fellow Members
These are certainly unprecedented and frustrating times we live in.
Twelve months ago, we would never have envisaged ourselves still under a degree of COVID-induced lockdown, and with the Theatre Industry remaining in complete turmoil. We are all aware that the much-beloved Fugard Theatre took the painful decision to permanently close its doors on 16 March, and the cavernous foyers of our “home,” The Artscape, have been eerily quiet.
But, as they say, fynbos growth follows the fires.
Tentatively, Artscape is opening up again, and professional productions are returning to their auditoria. At the time of writing, Hänsel und Gretel is being presented by Cape Town Opera, and Delibes’ ballet Coppelia is scheduled for mid-April, although strict COVID restrictions are being observed regarding audience numbers, currently allowing a maximum house of just 25% of capacity.
As far as we in G&S are concerned, we have made the decision to postpone The Pirates of Penzance until such a time when we can enjoy larger capacity audiences, but we are working on a couple of smaller projects, which we will share with you soon.
Hopefully, with vaccinations on the increase, and infections on the decrease, we may see the permitted audience capacities rise over the coming months, and we all look forward with growing anticipation to the day when we again walk into the rehearsal room. May it come soon, for us to return to doing what we love.
An Honorary Life Member of G&S, Gwen was an active supporter and contributor to our society for many years, and will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
There will be a memorial service for Gwen at St Thomas’ Church, Rondebosch, on Thursday 8th April at 14:30. Because of COVID restrictions, the church is only allowed 100 in the congregation, so please contact Gwen’s daughter, Jennifer Sharland, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to attend. There will be a Zoom link for anybody not able to attend, who may wish to pay their respects.
Gwen was such an enthusiastic and dedicated member of G&S, and we are grateful to Alastair Cockburn for sharing some of his memories of Gwen:
I first got to know Gwen and her husband, Richard, in my earliest days of involvement with the G & S Society. This was back in 1975 when I was the pianist for the rehearsals and performances of “Ruddigore” which was staged at the Claremont Civic Centre.
Over the years, both Gwen and Richard were in the chorus, and were also heavily involved in production aspects of many of the society’s shows, Richard with set construction, and Gwen with costume design and manufacture. Often Richard would be involved in building sets in his own garage and then spending days in constructing the sets on the stages we used – i.e. Claremont Civic Centre and then the Baxter Theatre in particular in the earlier days, and then at Artscape (ex Nico Malan) later on.
I well remember visiting their home in Rondebosch on many occasions and being amazed at the industry going on there. Many rooms in their house were literally covered in partially completed costumes and materials in various stages of being cut or sewn, and Gwen herself would have pins and needles with bits of thread hanging from them, pinned into her blouse or apron for ‘safe-keeping” while working on the costumes. She was responsible for some of the most beautiful costume designs.
Very fresh in my mind was the last design she did for our small production of “Trial by Jury” in the Arena a few years back. Gwen decided that the two main bridesmaids would be dressed in all-black mini-skirt dresses. I was rather concerned that this may not be appropriate, but needn’t have worried. The two ladies, Anke Ermel and Lara Basson looked stunning and the compliments at this innovative look endorsed my conviction to never argue with Gwen on her vision.
Apart from costume design and manufacture, I remember other creative hobbies of the couple. The magnificent model Doll’s House standing on their dining room table – it had been made from scratch by Richard and decorated beautifully by Gwen right down to the tiniest scale furniture and soft coverings, curtains etc. And it had real electric lighting. Gwen was also extremely proud of the exquisite quilts she designed and made using patches of attractive materials. After Richard retired, she taught him quilting and he also excelled in this creative hobby.
And then, there was her wacky sense of humour and incredible broad knowledge of history, the English language, literature, theatre etc. She was a great asset in the inter-society quizzes held annually and helped tremendously in our society winning the trophy on many occasions.
Gwen had not been well for several years and finally agreed to giving up her large house in Rondebosch and moving to a retirement complex in Pinelands. She had let her driver’s licence expire and sold her car. But imagine my surprise when I bumped into Gwen in the Howard Centre Shopping Mall a few months ago to be told by her that she had bought a new car and re-did her drivers licence in order to be more independent. That was Gwen – always the go-getter. It appeared as if nothing could keep her down. She will be sadly missed.
Rest in Peace, Gwen.
Yours in music and theatre
The Gaslight Team