Curtain may close on theater group
DARIEN — For the second time in as many years, the show may not go on for the British Women’s Pantomime Troupe in Darien.
“It’s been so difficult to pay the cost for renting town hall,” longtime member Susan Helms said.
Helms, the longest-lasting actor in the 25-year-old troupe, said over the years the team has evolved into a multicultural group, celebrating the different aspects of British culture. However, after years of putting on its annual show, the expenses have become harder to cover.
The pantomime troupe puts on performances primarily to raise money for a variety of charities, including the Young Women’s Christian Association in Darien.
“The reason why we put on the show is to raise money for charities,” Helms said. “I’m sure over the years we’ve raised over $100,000 to give to charity.”
A play usually costs around $5,000 to put together. In previous years, the group raised enough money through corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and fundraising to fund the show. However, the combination of losing some advertisers and the high cost of renting Darien town hall has taken a toll on the troupe. The group could not afford to put on a performance this year, and a 2019 show is still uncertain.
“At a certain point, we couldn’t even break even,” Helms said.
After it became too costly to put on the event, she said some of the members became discouraged. “We’re looking at other areas if we can’t come to an agreement with the town,” she said.
Adele Evershed, writer and director for the troupe, said historically the group was comprised of women from the United Kingdom with young children.
“It’s a unique way of staying in touch with something that we are all familiar with that children here may have never seen,” Evershed said.
Along with putting on an annual play, the group sees itself as a way for people new to Darien to get involved.
“I’ve lived in Darien for five years. It helped me when I first moved,” Evershed said. “I would encourage new people if they’re feeling a bit lonely.”
Evershed said the group mostly focuses on fairy tales in their plays, but members add modern twists to their stories — such as a fairy character that represented Twitter in “Sleeping Beauty,” who only spoke in hashtags.
“I try to bring in things that are more current,” Evershed said.
Despite lack of funds, the group is still hoping to come together to perform next year.
“So many people ask about continuing the panto and we miss it,” Helms said. “We miss being together.”