The Origin of Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society
H.D.&O.S. came into being in 1919 when the members of well-known local families got together to form a society.
The local paper told "that it was an unusually large gathering", and so great was the interest that many people could not gain admission.
The first play was put on at the Corn Exchange in November 1919 and was a light comedy called "Mice and Men" (see photo), followed by our first musical , Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" in January 1920.
For some years after this, Gilbert and Sullivan provided most of our musical repertoire and the Corn Exchange continued as the venue for our productions. In 1933 the Society started to use the County Cinema for its musical endeavours, opening with the "Belle of New York".
Two years later (1935) we instigated a One-Act Play Festival using a local community hall, St. Nicholas Hall, as a base.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 HD&OS was determined to do its bit locally for morale and money-raising for the war effort. A touring company was formed called "The Merrymakers" (see photo), who gave 200 performances from May 1940 to February 1945.
Our first pantomime, "Aladdin", was produced in 1945.
In 1948 St Nicholas Hall became the permanent venue for plays and the growth of the programme together with the increasing size of the Society meant that a permanent home was required.
Land in Pegs Lane was purchased in June 1948 for £250 with the idea of building our own facilities and putting on our shows there. But owing to the high building costs and a limited agreement by the local authority, nothing was done for 34 years!
However in 1955, a headquarters was finally established in St Andrew Street. The site contained a hall, outbuildings and a small garden, which had previously been the Headquarters of the Christian Alliance of Women and Girls.
1962 saw the start of Hertford Theatre Week, which has grown to be one of the most prestigious full length play festivals in the country. In 1967 a form of entertainment was instituted, which proved extremely popular - our first Old Time Music Hall. This toured the villages, making money for local and national charities.
All this time the Society was growing, so in 1971 it was agreed that we should form a Youth group to ensure our future. Known as Young Idea, its first public production was "Where the Rainbow Ends" in 1972. Again in 1973 plans were unveiled for our own premises but were not proceeded with, owing to the high costs involved.
In 1973, nearly 100 performers were involved and music composed for a pageant written by a local drama critic, Cyril Heath, to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the "Synod of the First Unity". HD&OS played a major part in this helped by other local societies.
A giant step was made in Hertford with the opening of the Castle Hall in 1977. Hertford Theatre Week was played there and our first show there was "Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" performed by the Young Idea.
In 1980, Rialto Builders came up with a scheme for the land in Pegs Lane, which was accepted by HD&OS and achieved planning permission. It involved building an office block (for Rialto) with our HQ attached to it.
In March 1983 the keys of our new home were handed over.
It was decided to open the new premises with a "Spring Spectacular". For three days the doors were open to the public, live music played, a small trade fair was set up and 72 hours of continuous play readings took place with refreshments for all. The whole celebration was topped off with a disco.
We now have a superb building which houses rooms for wardrobe, props and set building plus a large Rehearsal room which doubles as a theatre for in-house shows and a smaller rehearsal room. The large foyer and bar area serve as meeting or party space.
HD&OS is still striving to do new and inventive productions. 1996 saw us putting on T.S.Elliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" in the local St Andrew's Church.
The year 2000 saw us venture into out-door Shakespeare with a successful production of "The Taming of the Shrew".
In August 2007, the foyer area of Bentley House was refurbished to bring the space up to date. The opening of the new foyer on the 14th August was celebrated with a well attended party.