COINCIDING with the 60th birthday celebrations of the Foster Amateur Music and Drama Association (affectionately known as FAMDA) this month is an exhibition at Foster Museum centring on the multi-award-winning local theatre company.
A grand opening of the exhibition was held in the museum last Monday evening. There was double cause for celebration, for the date was November 4. This was the date 60 years ago that the first FAMDA production, ‘Foster Frolics,’ opened in Foster Hall.
Some of the people who were at that auspicious occasion back on Wednesday, November 4, 1953, were at last Monday’s exhibition opening.
A young Barb Fleming was there at that original FAMDA production, because both her parents, Clive and Jean Gotch, were involved. Barb later married John Fleming, son of Dr Robbie and Pattie Fleming, who are credited with being among the founding members of FAMDA and were stalwarts of the company for many years. Barb performed in as many as 26 productions between 1965 and 1986. Ever versatile, she played the leading boy in FAMDA productions of Rapunzel (1966) and Aladdin (1970) and later became a much sought-after piano accompanist.
Prue Fleming was also brought along to early FAMDA productions, but not to perform on stage. As a two-year-old she was rolled up in blankets and put to sleep under the seats in the supper room while her parents starred in ‘Foster Frolics.’ Inheriting something of their theatrical talents, Prue went on to be a gosling in ‘Mother Goose’ in 1960 (her sister, Merrin, was a reindeer) and directed ‘Follow the Star’ in 1977.
FAMDA life member Dick Straw has had an involvement almost from the beginning, joining FAMDA when he moved to Fish Creek back in the 1950s. Although he insists he was “never a star”, he performed in ‘HMS Pinafore’ in 1959 and since then has been on stage and back stage in countless FAMDA productions. It was fitting then that he was asked to officially open the exhibition – especially since he is also a long-time member of Foster and District Historical Society – and help cut the cake marking the occasion.
FAMDA president Edwin Coad said that FAMDA should be proud of all that it had achieved over the years. He said that Kate Crowl was updating the FAMDA history published ten years ago as ‘FAMDA’s Frolics 1953-2003’ and the publication should be available soon. Now there is a written history and a visual history, all that is needed, he said, is an oral history. He urged people to contribute their stories.
Jennifer Jones, the president of Foster and District Historical Society, expressed her hope that the FAMDA exhibition would be the first of many exhibitions of local organisations celebrating their history.
The exhibition features framed posters and programs from FAMDA productions, an assortment of costumes and lots of photos and memorabilia from the 60 years this popular theatre company has been delighting and amazing audiences. There’s a complete list of all the productions – and what an impressive lot they are!
The exhibition will continue at Foster Museum until March. The museum is open daily during weekends and school holidays.