Pantomime's 50 years

It's truly wonderful for something to reach 50 years; it shows commitment and dedication from everyone involved along the way. It's been a long journey for Ethel Anderson the founder, Lindy Madigan (nee Anderson) and Darrel McAuliffe (nee Dobson), but this year marks their 50th Pantomime.

The crew are excited to bring this production of Ethel's to life and invite all past and present performers to come along and see how much it has changed. They have produced a professional commemorative program that will be on sale for $20. This program features the names of every cast member, student and crew member through the 50 years, a real keepsake.

In 1970, Ethel and her dancing group were approached by Eunice Clark to assist the Guides and Brownies with a show, so they joined forces to put on the very first Pantomime under the name of 'The Willsden Guides and Brownies' with assistance from Eunice Clark, Betty Burch, Joan and Dennis Dobson, Elva and Brian Hammond and many others the show was titled 'The Modern Aladdin and his Magic Lamp' and was performed at the old Music and Arts Hall, now known as the Institute Theatre.

With a cast of 43 people and a script that was 10 pages long, the show cost 60 cents for adults and 20 cents for children. The panto would continue for the next 49 years, with many changes being made along the way. During the next few years, Ethel would continue this production with her own dancing group, now named The Anderson Dancers.

In 1976, the Pantomime moved to The Brian Evans Theatre, now Cinema Augusta, to put on the production of "Cinderella". In previous years, donations from the Pantomime were made to worthwhile charities; The Royal District Nursing Society, Wilmington Home for the Aged, The Port Augusta Scouts Club and Flinders House in Quorn to name a few.

In 1978, the then Governor General, Keith Seaman, visited Port Augusta to see his grandchildren perform in 'Snow White and The Dwarves', Ethel remembers it being a exciting time for everyone, with the visit being televised and reported on by everyone. By now the Panto had a cast of 98, plus the helpers and crew and the cost to come to the show was $1.20 for Adults and 50 cents for children.

In 1982 the Panto crew were doing seven performances of the show, all of them sold out and charging just $3 for adults and $1 for children, still managing to give away to many local groups.

1993 was a year of change when Anderson Dancers moved into "ETSA Hall", now the Lea Memorial Theatre. After dancing at the Brownie and Guide Hall, the Scout Hall and the Augusta Park High School drama room it was great for them to have a place to call home. The realisation of the upgrade of ETSA Hall was the brainchild of Greg Faulkner.

Greg saw the possibility of turning ETSA Hall into a theatre and spent many long hours of hard work to achieve this goal and bring his ideas to fruition; raising money to put in sound and lighting, seating, dressing rooms and the list continues. The dancing crew all worked alongside him to make it happen with many years of hard work, bringing shows to Port Augusta, continuous upgrades, grant applications, maintenance and cleaning. Over the years it has been a ongoing and neverending project.

1993 was also the year that the Anderson Dancers toured the Pantomime to Port Pirie, Andamooka, Wilmington, Quorn and Whyalla. With the cast and students still sitting around the 110 mark, they thoroughly enjoyed their year. With the show so large now, this was the only time they toured.

As the years passed the group have seen lots of people through the door and in 2000 Greg suddenly passed away and left a gaping hole at Anderson Dancers. Port Augusta lost a valuable member of the community, but he left a legacy for so many to enjoy.

In 2004 Anderson Dancers celebrated their 35th reunion, for them it was great to reminisce with so many people who had helped out over the years to catch up with the crew from the past and see where they were and what they were doing.

2013 brought with it the Australia Day award, awarded to Anderson Dancers for the great work of the volunteers who had provided support to generations of Port Augusta's youth and assisted in their development to become fine young citizens. With Panto now showing for four performances and ticket prices going up to $10 for adults and $8 for children, times had changed. With the group still contributing to charities as well as supporting Lea Memorial Theatre, money never goes very far.

2017 brought a change when they designed their new uniforms. A fresh new look was given to the dancing group with their blue and black uniforms.

Along the way Lindy and Darrel have been a part of the Pantomime experience from the very beginning. It's been a thrill to Port Augusta to watch them grow over the years through all the changes and it's great to see them still both here. Ethel remembers that when they were little it was a real competition to see who was going to be the best. Now they work side by side, never expecting accolades for anything they do, always there to help someone else out. With both girls having their children involved in cast and dancing, they have continued to stay involved in every aspect of Panto.

Ethel is very proud of them both and know that they will support each other and Panto for whatever the future brings, because if there is one thing that is very special about panto, it's the support that everyone receives and the lasting friendships they seem to have all made.

With 2019 and the 50th year, what can Port Augusta expect from here? Ethel says not much will change. She remarks that Panto has certainly changed over the last 50 years. Gone are the crepe paper costumes, the dyed bonds knickers and singlets and the 60 cent tickets. But for the three ladies who have been involved the longest, they say that what hasn't ever changed is the love for dancing, acting, participation and just good old fashioned fun.

They sincerely hope you continue to enjoy Panto as much as they do and that next year they will see you all back again, clapping and smiling your way through the show.

The group extends an invitation to anyone coming back to celebrate the show to book a place at their reunion dinner being held on the Saturday night of Pantomime at West Augusta Football Club. Tickets can be purchased from Jasmin Eckert 0428 979 001. Ethel in particular thanks you all for coming on their journey over the years and hopes you enjoy the performances as much as she has, putting them on for you.