Times were changing and membership of the club, previously only for former pupils of the Merchant Company Schools, was open to all from 1961.
Plays produced included classics such as Separate Tables by Terence Rattigan, repeat productions of favourites such as Champagne for Breakfast by Derek Benfield (previously staged in 1956) and more unusual choices like Brian Burton's Victorian melodrama The Murder of Maria Marten.
That giant leap for the Mercators came in 1967 with a move from the 200 seater YMCA to the new Church Hill Theatre in Morningside Road. A former church converted by the City for the use of local amateur groups, the Church Hill provided a 370+ capacity raked auditorium with foyer, box office, cloakroom and coffee bar; a wide stage with ample wing and backstage space, a workshop beneath the stage and the luxury of four dressing rooms. The catch? Higher rent, nearly double the number of seats to fill and more club members required for front of house duties.
1967 also saw a return to the SCDA One Act Festival after a gap of many years with Joe Corrie's The Income. Since then, we have performed in almost every festival. A year later, we reached the next round of the festival for the first time.
Throughout this decade, almost every club year followed an established pattern; an entry (or two) into the SCDA One Act Festival and a full length play in November at the Church Hill Theatre. Our choice of full length plays varied from classics like J.B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner to entertainment for a younger audience with Nicholas Stuart Gray's The Tinder Box or pure farce with Derek Benfield's Wild Goose Chase.
Our One Act entries achieved some notable firsts. In 1973, we premièred our first original play, Blowing in the Wind by John Wilson. Another original play, Farewell Ploy by Alan Richardson was chosen in 1977. That play went on to win the award for the best original play in the National Festival.
In 1975, we won the Edinburgh round for the first time with David Campton's The Cage Birds, produced by Douglas Currie. The next year we were runner-
Our November productions at the Church Hill Theatre also achieved several firsts. On the tenth of November 1973, we proudly put up the "house full" sign at a performance of Quiet Weekend on the kind of November night that usually encourages people to stay at home in front of the TV. We also staged the Scottish amateur premières of two plays by renowned writers -
Another original presentation was A Victorian Evening, held in Broughton School Theatre in May 1979. Featuring a miscellany of Victorian songs compiled by Cal Donald, it was a more informal type of show that was to prove popular and be repeated many times in later years.