EODS - History

It all began when two Eastbournians with theatrical experience, Emeric Beaman (Music Critic of the Eastbourne Gazette) and Cuthbert Hawley (Organist of the Catholic Church), conceived the idea of founding an Operatic and Dramatic Society. Support was forthcoming, a committee was formed and the light opera "Maritana" put on for four performances commencing on 30th May 1907 at the Devonshire Park Theatre. So began a happy association with that theatre which continues to this day.

"Maritana" was a success but expensive. Undaunted, the committee followed it with a straight play, "Liberty Hall" in February 1908 and in May with "The Mikado" which was so successful that the Society was set on its feet financially and able to make from the proceeds the first of a long list of donations to charity. No show was staged for more than three days and in 1913 "Iolanthe" and "The Gondoliers" were presented in the same week with some members playing leading roles in both!


The staging of a straight play in 1917 ended three years of inactivity due to the First World War and in 1920 the custom of producing two plays (or one play and one opera) in a week each Spring and Autumn was established. In the years that followed many new members appeared, productions became more lavish and audiences larger. "The Desert Song" in 1933 played for a whole week and was enormously successful. Then in 1940 the Society's activities were, once again, brought to a halt by war until 1946. Shortly after productions started again, with the increased support received from the public, the present practice of staging four shows (two plays and two musicals, for a full week in each case) every year commenced. About this time a Play Reading Circle was formed. This proved very popular and continues to meet once a month from November to June.


The future seemed assured but difficult times lay ahead particularly for the Dramatic Section. The choice of suitable plays became limited as many were presented locally by professional companies and audiences dwindled in all theatres with the growth of television. The Operatic Section had to meet a public demand for up-to-date large-scale productions and a decrease in support for the works of Gilbert & Sullivan. Nevertheless the standard of production remained high and in spite of rising costs and falling audiences the Society survived the lean years and is, once again, enjoying a gratifying level of support. With the opening of the Congress Theatre in 1963 the Operatic Section moved from the Devonshire Park and the increased capacity and better facilities of the newer venue proved most advantageous.


In 1982 the Society acquired its own premises in Seaside as its first permanent "home". The Centre provides facilities for rehearsal, storage of scenery and properties and some social functions. Its improvement is a continuous process! Following the production of "Oliver!" in 1970 the children, of whom there were many in the cast, decided they would like to do more stage work and this subsequently led to the formation of a Junior Section. They earned an enviable reputation in their own right. Throughout the 1980s the section went from strength to strength moving from the library theatre (what is now the Underground) to the Winter Gardens in 1984, to the Tivoli (1985-87) and finally to the Hippodrome from 1988-1990. The junior section continued into the 1990s as "Young EODS" and now produces a show, normally a musical, once a year in October at the Devonshire Park Theatre. In 2001 they combined forces with the Operatic Section to produce the highly-successful "Annie" at the Congress Theatre. This then began a very successful run of shows up to the present day.