Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society

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Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society or PEMADS

The Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society was founded in the basement of the Port Elizabeth City Hall in August 1945, when a group of musical theatre enthusiasts decided to present shows away from the Savoy operettas. The name quickly became abbreviated to PEMADS and has been known as such ever since. The president of the Society was the famous pianist, Sigi Hallis, chairman was J R Pigott, (a member of the Port Elizabeth Maritime Band), vice-chairman was Dave Berg, Marge Phillips was the hon secretary and Harold Davidson was the hon treasurer. By April 1947, the Society boasted a membership of 200.

By 1970 the Society had more than 3000 members. ***

In 2015 Rose Cowpar, President of the Port Elizabeth Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and Yolande Farrow, newly-elected Chairperson of PEMADS, initiated a closer relationship between the two societies, including joint projects.

Contribution to South African Theatre

April 1946: PEMADS produced their first play, Peter Blackmore’s The Blue Goose directed by Eve Martin, in the Port Elizabeth City Hall.

1946: The Quaker Girl, directed by Daphne Mann.

May 22 - 24, 1947: William Shakespeare's Arsenic and Old Lace, produced by Raymond Davidson was staged in the Port Elizabeth City Hall. The business managers and prop-builders were Harold Davidson and Dave Berg.

August 12 - 16, 1947: PEMADS produced their first musical comedy, Gipsy Love, produced by Sally Carrol and directed by Honor Edmonds at the Port Elizabeth Opera House, with Jean Browne as choral mistress, Edna Stanton Fryer as musical director and Yvonne Harrison as choreographer. Starring Nanette Walker, Daphne Russell, John Farrar, Fred Bryant, Ivy Foster, Harold Davidson, Jan Westenbrugge and Malcolm Mackay.

PEMADS and the Salters' Cup

From 1957 PEMADS hosted the Salters' Cup One-Act Play Festival which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1987. The cup itself was awarded for best director and the specific aim of the competition was to encourage new directors., although later acting awards were also introduced. To maintain high standards of productions the awards were not issued during some festivals.

PEMADS Little Theatre

The Little Theatre was originally known as the Loubser Hall and formed part of the Athenaeum Club.

It was owned by the Port Elizabeth Municipality.

Harold Davidson was instrumental in obtaining the use of this hall for rehearsal purposes. After PEMADS members and directors got used to their new home, productions began.

Conditions were primitive. Back-stage storage space was non-existent, lighting was barely adequate, and if you had a large cast, conditions became chaotic.

After the facilities were improved the new dressing rooms were considered "no fun" as the team feeling of doing all that costume changing with just a sheet on a line separating the boys from the girls, was gone.

Also referred to as the Pemads Little Theatre, after the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society (PEMADS), the society that built and owns it.

Contains the Noel Morgan Auditorium.

Among the other local groups using it are the Port Elizabeth Afrikaanse Amateur Toneelvereniging (PEAAT).


Saturday Post, April 19, 1947.

Saturday Post, July 26, 1947.

Gosher, 1988 [JH]

Bob Eveleigh, 2015, "Closer ties for PE theatre societies" ArtsLink, 08/20/2015 08:49:41

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