BATS centenary: A family affair

THEATRICAL FAMILY  Chris, Marian, John and Margaret. (D552D350)
THEATRICAL FAMILY Chris, Marian, John and Margaret. (D552D350)
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The Sheard family has been involved with the Thespians for generations.

Marian Sheard joined in 1965 to take to the stage in The Merry Widow.

Her late husband Leslie joined a year later for Oklahoma and son John is the Thespians’ stage manager and married to Society president Margaret.

Although Marian, 94, has retired from the stage, she still supports the Society – including altering the costumes of her grandson, Chris, one of BATS’ leading men.

She said: “I had lead roles in Quaker Girl and Call Me Madam, I’ve always been interested in singing. There’s nothing like it.”

Marian has fond memories of performing at Dewsbury Town Hall and the Dewsbury Playhouse – with plenty of off-stage drama too.

“We did the Quaker Girl at the Playhouse,” she said. “A lot of water flooded the market place and came up in the orchestra pit. The pianist was floating!”

Marian, of Dewsbury Moor, said she loved being a part of BATS and has kept programmes from all of her shows.

“It’s a very talented society,” she said. “I’m waiting for a part for an elderly lady!

“It kept me going, being in the theatre, singing and acting.

“I’m glad it’s been passed down to my grandson Chris.”

Chris helped his father John in backstage roles before taking his first acting part in BATS production of Sweet Charity in 1997.

“I enjoy everything about BATS – everyone involved is really friendly.

“Our director Frank Hammond is another highlight, he has done the last five shows, and also moving into Batley’s Mencap Hall, it’s great to have our own rehearsal space.”

As well as treading the boards, committee member Chris has also designed programmes and now handles publicity.

In 2004, the programme he designed with fellow cast member Charles Townend for the Thespian’s Christmas show, Half A Sixpence, beat off more than 2,000 other am-dram groups to win the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) award for best programme.

Chris’s fiancee, Amy Roche, has performed with the Thespians since 1995.

Chris was working backstage during her first BATS show – Hans Christian Anderson, in 1995 – and had no idea they would one day be planning their wedding!

In May, Chris, 33, got down on one knee on the final night of the Thespians’ production of High Society at Batley Town Hall and asked Amy to marry him.

“High Society was a real milestone,” he said.

Chris and Amy were not the first off-stage romance – Kevin and Suzanne Mawson first met at a Thespians rehearsal and performed in the centenary show together with their two sons, Jack and Daniel.

Kevin’s mother, Irene, who sadly passed away in August, was also a longstanding BATS member and former president.