My 17 years of Savoyard involvement were at the early end of the period. We had lived in England during 1965-1966 and, on our return to Sudbury, I was asked to be the Assistant Chairman of the group. At that time, the Savoyards were totally a part of the Sudbury United Methodist Church and the chairman was elected/appointed like any other of the church's various committee chairs or officers. I don't remember what the duties of Assistant Chairman were but, in retrospect, it was really a set-up for me to take over as chairman when the incumbent, Jim Sloan, resigned the following year.

Jim had left a legacy to me that was well organized, however. Not only was the basic organization defined but, more importantly, he had set us up for having all the necessary printing (programs, posters, handbills and certificates) done at Raytheon Service Company where he was a Vice President. As I spent my entire career at Raytheon, it was easy to continue this arrangement. I don't know where this printing is done now but, obviously, not only is the cost impact significant but the program is a major source of income. At the time I figured that the advertising in the program paid for production costs leaving ticket sales as profit.

Some years, however, those profits were pretty slim, barely amounting to three or four hundred dollars. I received many comments about whether such a small income justified so much effort. It did seem worthwhile, however, when viewed in the light of the broad audience we reached and the involvement of so many people in the production, orchestra and staging. We did realize, however, that we needed to broaden the beneficiary of all this activity. With so many people in the cast and orchestra drawn from outside Sudbury or SUMC or, for that matter, any church at all, it seemed more appropriate to put our profits toward a more universal purpose rather than continue simply supporting the general church budget. It was then that we decided to direct our income to the relief of general world hunger via UMCOR. The decision was a good one and continues to be appropriate for the group.

I say "we decided" but in those years I had no assistant and ran the group as a "benevolent despotism." With Lawrie Haworth (Stage Director) and Betty Farmer (Music Director) doing the real work I just had to organize the Business and Staging part of the activity. Lawrie and Betty were crucial to the annual production and every year I found myself holding my breath waiting to learn if they were willing to take on another year's worth of labor . Eventually the year came when each would drop out for one reason or another but, with Dave Larrick, Sally Osborn, Michael Cashman and others popping up as replacements, we managed to maintain a great group each year.

Early productions were held in the Town Hall but it was rapidly obvious that we had to find a new alternative. Not only was it small, but the Town Hall stage had been outfitted with a lighting system, curtain and other amenities by the Sudbury Players, many of whom were among our staunchest cast members. It was clear that, although we were welcome, we needed a place of our own. In 1969, with the production of The Mikado, I moved the show to the LSRHS auditorium: a much larger and better equipped stage with a hall that (at least in those days) we could never expect to sell out, even on Saturday night.

The '69 Mikado was the year of the great snowstorm. On the Sunday of the big technical rehearsal the snow came without let-up. By the time we were through, there must have been two feet on the ground. Plows had been through the High School parking lot and plowed many cast member's cars into snow banks. Many of the cast who were from out-of- town never got home but bunked in with Sudbury residents (at least one marriage resulted) and I abandoned my car and walked the last mile home. It was a good show, however.

Working with the high school was not easy. The teachers responsible for Dramatics were never comfortable with "interlopers" coming in to use the facility. Although it was reasonable that school activities take first precedence, these teachers often delayed allowing reservation of the auditorium until the last moment claiming their schedule wasn't defined and, on at least one occasion, tried to cancel us out at their convenience after they had signed the leasing agreement. More than once, Dave Levington (then Superintendent) had to step in to sort out the difficulty. One year (I don't remember which one) there was a major shortage of fuel and the High School decided not to heat the auditorium as a fuel saving measure. We were forced to move the production to a warmer time of year later in the Spring. It was a disaster! Many of our cast and orchestra members, who planned on our production in Feb./March, had made other commitments and couldn't join us. Little League had started and as a result few kids showed up on Saturday afternoon. We were glad to get back to the normal schedule the following year.

More than one of the decisions we wrestled with have emerged and been settled in the recent past.

Many complained that we never did anything other than G & S and wanted to try something different. The die-hard Savoyards said "G & S or nothing." Your recent summer productions have proven to be a great solution.

We always wanted to try a second weekend. It seemed a shame to put in all that effort and have it all over so quickly but I always worried that we'd simply split our audience and play to half-full houses. You've recently added that second week end and I hope it has been a good decision.

My best decision, though, was to separate the group more completely from the SUMC. We were relying on the church membership to fill all of the business and staging responsibilities and it was getting to be very difficult to fill all of the jobs. Most of my friends had held major responsibilities at one time or another and I was rapidly running out of friends who were willing to make the committment. The growth and success of the group in the subsequent years has been most gratifying. The tie between church and Savoyards has been mutually beneficial. My best wishes for your continued success.

Will Ford 2003

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