After 30 years, the curtain came down on the Headingley United Church Players for the last time on Feb. 23.
Originally formed in 1984 by United Church minister Grant Smith and congregation members to raise money for the church, the company’s annual dinner theatre became a much-anticipated event marked on the calendars of many local residents.
Margaret Mills, one of the main organizers and costume mistress, joined the company in its first year and hasn’t missed a season since.
"We were total amateurs," she said, thinking back to 1984.
As well as being the final production, this year’s performance was marked by the recent death of long-time cast member John Larkin.
"John was the only other one who’d been in every production," said Mills.
A tribute to Larkin featured photos taken of him dressed for his various roles, including a few where he donned women’s clothing.
Gill Bramwell, who was often cast as a villain, said being part of the company gave him the chance to become someone else and to add to the community’s spirit.
"It’s a labour of love," he said.
In addition to a display of photos taken of each production’s cast, audience members for the final production could look back over the company’s history through 37 costumes that were hung along the Headingley’s Community Centre’s walls.
Mills said she shopped at thrift stores everywhere she went for clothing to be transformed into costumes needed for each year’s show. Other costumes, such as spotted cow suits, had to be designed and sewn.
All the costumes are kept in storage. Mills expects other amateur theatre companies to ask for some, and the remainder will be sold.
She and the company’s other organizers voluntarily devoted two months a year to the annual dinner theatre. Mills said she’ll miss the camaraderie that developed between the cast members as they prepared for opening night.
She added that it’s been difficult finding new cast members who are willing and able to spend the time needed to attend rehearsals three times a week for six weeks. This lack of new blood forced the company members to take their final bows.