Welcome to our blog! Frances Dharmalingam, president of the Perth Shakespeare Club, has set the ball rolling with a post about our club's history and her own experiences of membership. If you live in Perth and love Shakespeare, why not come along and join us?
Over to Frances now!
The Shakespeare Club of Western Australia was founded in 1930, which makes it probably one of the oldest cultural institutions still extant in Perth. In fact, we celebrated the Club's eightieth birthday last year. The founders intended to promote the reading, appreciation and performance of fine literature.
The membership in the early decades was large enough to justify fortnightly meetings, and doubtless more during rehearsal periods leading to the presentation of full theatrical productions of Shakespeare and other plays. These activities were led by such enthusiasts as Mrs. Anita LeTessier (nee Fitzgerald), a well-known exponent of elocution. Members were encouraged also to give recitals of poetry and to present papers on literary topics.
In its heyday the Club hosted many quite glittering social functions, including a soiree to welcome the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield, during his visit to Perth. By the 1960s, however, society was changing and there was a decline in numbers owing to competing interests and needs.
As the Club shrank, members' attention became more narrowly focussed. Meetings are now held monthly, and our studies are directed almost entirely to the works of Shakespeare. It is no longer possible to consider mounting public performances, but all members enjoy and give of their best in reading aloud the texts currently being looked at. We no longer hold lavish receptions, but take great pleasure in the social interaction with our fellow enthusiasts.
When I joined the Shakespeare Club it was with the idea that, at the very least, I would probably read three plays per year (rather than none most years!) and both revise and extend my acquaintance with Shakespeare. From that limited ambition I have gained so much more. Meaning is not only in the printed word, but also depends on and is enhanced by the speaking aloud. To examine a play in the company of friends with shared interests but varying backgrounds provides so many unexpected and valuable insights. The wider exploration of themes and ideas arising from the texts can expand our mental horizons indefinitely. These are just some of the reasons why I have continued to attend the meetings, and find so much pleasure in them.