At a meeting on 18 January 1965 "The Little Theatre Group of Hamburg" was informally born. A temporary committee was formed and co-ordinated by Rev. Frank J. Leonard. Doris Ostendorf provided a great deal of inspiration. Other members were, Jill Oakesholt, Mr and Mrs Roger Clarke, Rusty and Ames Latta, John and Mary Kimball, Mr and Mrs Jack Sinclair, Richard and Nancy Daskowski, and Elizabeth Chandler.
On 7 and 8 May 1965
under the sponsorship of the Parent-Teachers Association of the International School, Hamburg, four one-act plays, directed by three directors, were performed at Unilever House, with over 400 people attending and DM 1,300 in proceeds being made for the International School. The great success of these evenings made it clear that performing full-length plays in English in Hamburg was vaiable, and the hope of a permanent English-speaking theatrical group became a reality.
A meeting was therefore called at Amerika Haus on 21 May 1965 for anyone interested in such a venture. It was generally agreed that it would be a viable project and after some discussion, it was decided that the group would be known as
The Hamburg Players
A Committee consisting of Rev. Frank Leonard (Chairman), Jack Kimball (Vice-Chairman), Dr. Bernhard Steidle (Treasurer), Roger Clark (Secretary) together with Alwyn Jones, Barbara Ferguson and Barbara Anderson were given the task of setting up a constitution, which they did by 6 July 1965; it was accepted by the members and the group was officially launched. It was also agreed that those people who had attended the 21 May meeting, and any others who joined during the following three months, would be regarded as Founder Members.
For the opening production a popular play of the period, Terence Rattingan's Separate Tables was selected to be directed by Jack Sinclair. Auditions were held and rehearsals took place in the cellar of the British Consulate in Harvestehuder Weg. Two performances were given at Unilever House on 21 and 22 October 1965, playing to a collective audience of about 500.
It was the policy - and still is - that any surplus funds be donated to charity. As a result, a cheque for DM 2,100 was handed to UNICEF, who had kindly assisted in the selling of the tickets and publicising the production. (It is gratifying to note at this point that since then around 45,000 euros has been donated to a wide variety of mostly local, worthy causes). During the early formative years, we were given considerable assistance by the U.S. Army base in Bremerhaven. We had a mutual agreement that if they would build our sets, we would perform our plays in their Garrison Theatre and the sets would then be transported by them to Hamburg to be re-erected for our regular performances.
This continued to be the case until we started to perform at the Theater an der Marschnerstrasse in 1967, by which time we had gathered together enough people with sufficient know-how to enable us to build our own sets. Once established at the Marschnerstrasse, we were beginning to reap the benefits of the considerable amount of work put in by our 'publicity team' and our audiences were steadily increasing. However, it was not until we performed The Importance of Being Earnest in 1973 that we suddenly found ticket orders exceeding the planned capacity, i.e. four performances, and we had to quickly organise two further performances at Amerika Haus.
We were now playing regularly to audiences of approximately 1,500, and in 1975, when we presented Ring Round the Moon to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, we took a chance and booked the theatre for 8 performances over two weeks, which, owing to demand, increased immediately to 10 performances when we presented the famous 'rabbit' play Harvey.
On a number of occasions, usually to coincide with 'British Weeks', we have been invited to take our productions on tour. In this respect we have played in Osnabrück, Vechta, Bremen, Uelzen, Ratzeburg and Rendsburg, and we have invitations from India and Russia asking us to come and perform there. We have also entered a number of FEATS Festivals (Festival of European Anglophile Theatrical Societies), playing in Luxembourg, Brussels, Antwerp, Münchengladbach and The Hague. We are competing on these occasions with the cream of English language amateur theatre in Europe and have received several awards over the years, including one for Stage Management, Best Play, and Best Actor, as well as two for Best Supporting Actress, while a number of our actors and actresses have been nominated among the `best five', which is very gratifying.
In 1990 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary with a Dinner/Dance and were very pleased to welcome some of our old members from as far afield as America, Australia, England and France, who came to Hamburg specially for 'The Silver Jubilee'. Over a period of forty years, very many people have given much of their spare time to the requirements of the Group.
In 2005 we celebrated our 40th anniversary by bringing "FEATS" to Hamburg in May 2005 as a special event. Being the host of this festival was not only an honour but also a challenge of the kind we gladly took on. And to round off our 40th year we celebrated our "40th birthday" party at the Alex on Jungfernstieg. It was a great event we all enjoyed. We look forward to the next 40 years!