It’s not hard to imagine that Wendy Hutt has been involved with theatre for nearly four decades in her hometown of Bedford. Over the phone, the retired schoolteacher admits she can’t sit still as she enthusiastically describes the assorted people and components that go into a stage production.
Last year, Bedford Players celebrated its 30th anniversary. Hutt has been involved since before its formal beginnings, having been a member of the forerunning Bedford community theatre groups, Basin and All Saints Players.
Hutt has worn many hats throughout the years, from stage-managing Oliver with All Saints in the early ’80s and producing the Bedford Players’ production of The Mousetrap last year, to helping to organize galas and selling tickets at the door. “I’ve even taken a paintbrush—and I’m not a painter—and helped out with the sets,” she says. “Dave Parsons, he’s the main sets guy, would say, ‘I don’t want it neat. Go in every direction.’ Well, I thought, I can do that!”
But Hutt’s favourite role is performing on stage. “It’s a stressful way to have fun when you’re acting,” she laughs. “The adrenaline flow is always going. Even the back scene stuff that happens…you know those whoa moments? Costumes and things are flying. And boy you’re moving! But it adds to the fun. All the while everyone is supporting one another.”
From Linda Lodge in Move Over Mrs. Markham to Jan in Bedroom Farce, Hutt has played a variety of characters on stage. “She’s a very talented actor who although loves to have fun, takes her craft very seriously and puts every ounce of energy she has into it,” says media-relations representative Bonnie Matthews who has been with the Bedford Players for 12 years.
Hutt shares one highlight was starring in No Sex Please, We’re British both in 1991 and 2008. “The first time I was cast as the young hooker and the second time I was the more mature hooker,” she says. “But it was interesting because it was two different directors with two different visions. In the first production it was sort of a ‘wiggle-giggle’ type role and for the second it was more ‘stroll and strut.’ And you’re thinking is this going to work? And they both did.”
One of the most challenging and equally fulfilling roles Hutt says she’s played was Chris Clancey, the lead role in Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls. A true story about a group of Yorkshire women creating a nude calendar to fundraise for leukemia research, exhilaratingly took Hutt and her cast members out of their comfort zones. After rehearsing three times a week for about 10 weeks, they were ready for the high-emotion portrayals their characters demanded, zipping through nine or 10 costume changes, “whipping off bras” and tastefully depicting nude photo shoots.
“As the playwright puts it, when doing the play should anything be seen that oughtn’t, it would be like opening the door of the oven on a soufflé—it would just fall apart,” says Hutt. “So nothing was seen. Everything was strategically covered in the making of the calendar. All of us coming together and getting over our inhibitions, working as a team and experiencing the different emotions from our characters was amazing.”
Subsequently, the Bedford Players cast also made their own calendar to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada.
Hutt says what makes each performance worthwhile is providing entertainment to local theatregoers. “We have some very strong supporters of Bedford Players,” she says. “What’s a production without an audience?”
Although it’s the actors that are front and centre, Hutt explains that approximately 100 people are involved in each production, from the teams in charge of costumes, sets and props to those who work the canteen during intermission. “It takes a lot of people other than the actors and directors to put on a play,” Hutt says. “The audience sees the people on the stage but there are so many more people that deserve the credit.”
That’s the beauty of getting involved with a community theatre group, says Hutt, since people with varied interests are required. She urges anyone in the community, even if they have no theatre experience, to contact Bedford Players and find out how to get involved. Experienced members help new recruits find their niche and guide them along the way.
Even if you have never acted before, but have always wanted to, Hutt recommends coming out for the auditions, which are more relaxed than you might suspect. She says not to fret if you do not get a part the first time, as casting is usually based on finding the right fit for a particular character.
Hutt looks forward to many more years with Bedford Players: she loves being able to express her creative side, and experience the adrenaline rush of performing. But most of all she has and will continue to enjoy the camaraderie.
“They’re really good people,” she says. “I love the number and variety of people from all walks of life involved in theatre. It’s a very accepting group. I’ve made really good friends through Bedford Players. We are like a family.”
Bedford Players’ current production is Arsenic and Old Lace, until April 12.