Seren Thomas: My Experience With Guild Drama

Seren Thomas is a BMus Music graduate from the University of Birmingham. Here she talks about her experience of taking part in The Guild's drama societies.

Written by Seren Thomas

During my time at university I was involved in two of the Guild Drama societies, UoB Panto Soc and Guild Musical Theatre Group (GMTG). Both societies put on shows each term; Panto Soc puts on two shows in the Winter term, one on campus and one in university halls for the hall reps, followed by one show per term for the remainder of the year. GMTG puts on a musical and a showcase which consists of songs taken from a variety of productions from stage and screen centred around a theme to ‘showcase’ their talented members. I enjoyed being a part of both groups, UoB Panto Soc gave me the chance to arrange popular music and themes for a pit band and GMTG gave me the opportunity to play songs that I love from musical theatre.

Seren smiles proudly. In the background Old Joe is peeking out above the houses of Selly Oak.

My introduction to Guild Drama came in the first term of my second year when UoB Panto Soc put on a production of Robin Hood. I mentioned to the musical director that I would be interested in playing in the pit band if there was room and I was able to join as a reeds player, doubling on clarinet and alto saxophone. I had an amazing time doing Robin Hood and I think it was a good show for me to get started with and build my confidence. Prior to this I had only been on stage performing, not off stage in the pit or behind the scenes and I found that I preferred it. As the rehearsal process went on, I became interested on what it was like to be on the production team. I spoke to Oliver, our musical director, about this and he let me sit in on some of the cast rehearsals.

The following term Oliver was asked to be on the Hamlet the Panto production team and he asked if I would like to join him alongside one of our other friends, Ellen, as a co-musical director and I said yes. I only had glimpse into what it was like to be a musical director with Robin Hood, but on Hamlet I had much more responsibility. Between the three of us we selected audition and pieces, searched for pit band members, led rehearsals with the cast and the pit as well as arranging and orchestrating the music for the show. Conducting the show was split between the two newer musical directors, myself and Ellen. Conducting the show I was one of the things I found most rewarding about the whole experience and it gave me the confidence to go on and audition to conduct the University of Birmingham Music Society’s Clarinet Choir, which I then went on to conduct in the Summer Term of my second year and the Autumn Term of my third year.

In the third term of my second year I was unable to take part in the panto pit band due to the dates clashing with my plans, but was fortunately to be asked to be apart of the GMTG pit band for their showcase, ‘Back to Before’, and was even able to arrange a version of ‘Who Will Love Me As I Am?’ from Side Show for them. This was a particular highlight of my university experience for my as I was able to play some of my favourite songs from my favourite shows alongside some of my friends. It was less relaxed than when I had done panto due to the shorter turn around, but I think this pressure made it all the more rewarding.

My final show with Guild Drama was with UoB Panto Soc in the Autumn Term of my final year. One of the cast members I had worked with on Hamlet the Panto had decided to write a script for Peter Panto and approached me to be on the production team as the musical director. As it was my final year at university, I decided to ask one of my friends, Cait, to be a co-musical director with me to share the workload. This was my favourite production that I worked on during my time at university. The confidence I had gained on past productions meant that I felt able to be more involved with shaping the show, adding in underscoring to add to the humour of the show and leading pre-show workshops so that freshers and new faces would know what to expect and to give them the confidence to audition.