Experience of a Lifetime – Carol-Anne Caswell

In the beginning, the Firehall Theatre was my sanctuary; spending time most days of the week cleaning the theatre for a small stipend & in later years catering workshops so I could attend as well. Props were my thing; watching over them, organizing the props cupboards, sorting out props no longer applicable to our shows…Norma Connor & I were props ladies for shows as well over the years. We always had a hoot together. I enjoyed her friendship for many years.

My first show was Inherit the Wind. I was Mrs. Maclean, bible thumper. My daughter told me I overacted. My acting soon improved.  

As Granny in Papa’s Angels, I lived up the hill from the family’s log house in the Ozarks. Papa had lost his Mama, left with a brood of children. Quite the controversy when a couple of the schools pulled out of their attendance for the show at Victoria Hall: Papa (JR) was gonna shoot Santa…ET was nine years old then. She wouldn’t touch the rabbit pelt prop; already a conscientious objector at such a young age. 

Carol-Anne Caswell, second from left, in Harvey.

Barefoot in the Park, Harvey & Not Now Darling were my dinner theatre appearances. Norma & I took care of 50/50 for dinner theatre as well. If we had dinner, it was ten dollars. Bonus.

I was not in the cast for Menopositive (Victoria Hall) but I handed out fans to the ladies on entry & chatted briefly dressed in a black, skimpy maids’ outfit with fishnet stockings. I had fun playing an unscripted fan lady.

In Annie I played a maid in the mansion & a Hooverville peasant who stole an up-and-coming star’s suitcase as she sang her hellos to New York City. During rehearsal on the third floor one evening, we were standing in our blocked positions when three girls moved in front of me. Val walked over, pulled me by the shirt & stood me right in front of them without saying a word. Boy, did I feel special. Norma & I had a heck of a time getting our Hooverville steps correctly. Alina laughed at our antics. But we eventually ‘got it’. On set we had to climb a rickety temporary staircase hidden behind a curtain & exit down the other side into the bright lights of the mansion. 

Carol-Anne Caswell and Greg Curtis rehearse for Annie.

Sets never crumbled in my time with the Players but actors did a few times. An actor in Barefoot in the Park was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Lynne took over, script hanging at her side. She pretty well knew all the lines. The audience applauded her performance.

During rehearsals for The Full Monty, I opened the door for the Green Room & there were the men trying on their g-strings. I didn’t see much but was thrilled at their shock & laughter. 

On one occasion; Dave & Dave, in a hurry grabbed each other’s g-strings by mistake. On stage during the final act, Dave was holding one side closed & Dave had some excess to deal with. The audience was not aware. The blast of light at the end scene covered up the faux-pas. Hilarious.

Our children’s show at Victoria Hall, James & the Giant Peach, was a blast. It sure was a tight space inside that peach with the young players squishing in with me. I played Great Green Grasshopper as well as being narrator of the story.

There was no name for my character in Cabaret so I called myself The Countess which I hope was reflected in my part as a patron of the Kit Kat Club. Days before the opening I got a cast on my arm & wrist after a titanium plate was surgically implanted to hold my wrist in place. Behind the scenes I wore a brace but while waiting to go on I took it off, did the necessary exercises, then slipped on my silk elbow gloves for my entrance. In one scene I entered from the wrong side. However, I sat at the table on that side & no one noticed, except Christine S who was grinning at me from across the stage at the other table. I loved having interaction with the audience when calling on a participant to join the table. 

After our last show, some of the cast were laughing at our cast picture. There I stood at the end of a row wearing my gorgeous gold dress with a noticeable flower that looked like a ‘3rd boob’. I laughed too.

In Les Belles Soeurs at the Firehall Theatre my character, Angeline, had to emote anger at the other women which was astounding for me because I am rarely angry but it came out just right.

I have seen many changes to the Firehall Theatre over these many years & actors, behind-the-scene volunteers joining & leaving but the heart of the Northumberland Players has never ceased to draw audiences from far & wide. The ‘old guard’ is passing through now & I pray that the camaraderie, professionalism, devotion & dedication continues.

At 74 yrs. I want to act, again. 

Thank you for the excellent experience of a lifetime.

All Good Things