Founded in 1919 as a theatrical society, the Mermaids were originally a group of young women who would go down to the beach and read plays together. As time went on, theatre at the University of St Andrews began to flourish. With each production applying directly to the Union for money, it became too difficult for the Union to assess applications individually. Out of all the theatre societies at the time, The Mermaids were chosen to represent the theatre funding body.
In 1948, William Barron graduated from St Andrews with an undergraduate degree in English and History, and the impact that the university made on his life can be seen through his legacy gift of £350,000 for, in his words, “the encouragement and furtherance of drama in the University in a practical rather than academic way.” Mermaids would not be the same without William Barron’s legacy; since the Barron theatre opened its doors in September of 2008, William Barron’s legacy has allowed for St Andrews to have a home for experimental theatre where student ideas can flourish, and Mermaids to have a home. The existence of a dedicated student theatre and workshop, run and managed for students and by students, has helped to provide students of the university with a chance to expand their University experience beyond the academic and into the performing arts.
In 1970, St Andrews awarded the famous choreographer Antony Tudor with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contribution to ballet. Oxford University apparently followed suit after a short period of time, but it was the University of St Andrews that Dr Antony Tudor remembered in his will. Dr Tudor’s legacy of $95,000USD has been supporting drama and music within the university for over two decades. In the past two years it has supported shows including ‘The Glass Menagerie’, ‘King Lear’, ‘As You Like It’ and ‘Five Women Wearing the Same Dress’ along with Mermaids, and other student groups including the Blue Angels Dance Company and St Andrew’s very own Improv Troupe ‘Blind Mirth’.
Mermaids is the funding body for performing arts in St Andrews. It’s about supporting writers, directors, producers, stage managers, actors, lighting designers, costume makers, props enthusiasts, set builders, make-up artists, and all other creative types in engaging with the performing arts. Mermaids represents the funding and the support to allow all students to explore their own creativity with a friendly safety net if required!
Every year the Mermaids Christmas Ball raises funds which are then used to put on all types of shows all year. Last year (2011 – 2012) saw Mermaids supporting everything from devised pieces in the Barron to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the castle, from As You Like It on the Byre Mainstage, which then transferred to Stratford as part of an RSC competition, to student writing which had a second run at the Edinburgh Fringe. The Mermaids Committee don’t just control the purse strings though, they’re also there to help you achieve your vision from start to finish, whether that means helping you with lighting design, sourcing a period waistcoat, or turning the black-box theatre entirely white!
We are privileged to have the Mermaids Theatre Fund: it’s there to allow any student to put on any show. You can propose to do anything theatrical, and it will be considered by the Committee. Shows are all considered, without exception, and are not judged on artistic merit, but rather on a financial basis. This means that, working together with production teams, we can make pretty much any show happen. Mermaids are also fortunate enough to run the only student-dedicated theatre in St Andrews – The Barron. This space is available for shows to perform and rehearse, workshops to take place, or auditions to be held. It can also be used by other societies for music based events, exhibitions, or anything else!
Every year Mermaids are heavily involved in the On The Rocks festival in St Andrews, and also send multiple shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. We also run festivals of Student Writing, and Freshers Plays (directed, produced, and acted by Freshers with plenty of committee help on hand!) – this year saw six Freshers plays take over the Barron for a week! Throughout the year Mermaids supports every show granted funding, and runs workshops and socials. These range from audition technique for actors to lighting workshops with the tech team. Mermaids is not just about acting. All areas within the performing arts are nurtured and funded, so come along and meet those who might share your theatrical but off-the-stage passion too, whatever that might be!
The Committee are keen to meet all of you and everyone is welcome at the official Mermaids social on the last Thursday of every month (details on the ‘Whats On’ page).
We’re a Sub-Committee of the Student Union so every student is automatically a member of Mermaids when they matriculate – so there’s no reason not to come and play…