Creative Director of NE Theatre York
Q What is your background?
For the best part of my life, I have worked in retail. My career began in visual merchandising, creating window displays at stores and infusing a drop of “theatre” into the shopping experience. Despite my passion for acting, timings never aligned. Once I did take time out to pursue being a professional actor, but I soon realised that I needed the stability of a regular salary, and I returned to my day job after completing just one tour. Over time, I began working with different community theatre companies. Then, fourteen years ago, I joined NE Theatre. At some point along the line I became the company’s chairperson, and about five years ago also its creative director. I like to think I’ve moved NE Theatre into one of the most progressive theatres companies out there.
Q What kind of training have you had and what was your first acting experience?
I received my first acting role—in “The Sound of Music”—at the bright, young age of eleven. I remember auditioning, along with lots of other similarly-aged children, vividly. It was quite cutthroat, with the bulk of auditionees being sent home after the first audition. After a series of rounds, I was informed that I’d been offered the role of Kurt von Trapp. What a brilliant feeling that was! After this first experience I joined Tyneside Theatre and involved myself with everything theatre, from working on designs and staging to acting, singing and dancing. I’ve also worked with numerous community theatre companies along the way, and at one point even had the opportunity to work in professional theatre.
Q What do you do when you are not doing theatre?
Well, now that I’m retired, I actually do dedicate most of my time to working on the NE Theatre shows—that occupies around nine months of the year. But when I’m not doing theatre, my husband, Kelvin, and I spend as much time as we can at our home in Spain. It’s a totally amazing, serene “recharge retreat” for us, especially as we don’t have internet and only a few basic TV channels. It’s simply the best place in the world for us to switch off and relax.
Q What brought you to NE Theatre York?
When I first moved to York, I had a job in Leeds and had to commute every day. By complete chance, one day I found myself talking to a lady who mentioned that NE Theatre were desperately looking for somebody to fill a role due to their previous candidate dropping out at the last minute. I decided to audition, and to my delight got the part!
Q What’s the biggest production that you have been a part of, either as an actor or as a director?
As an actor, probably “The Producers.” That was with the York Stage theatre company, and I played the part of Rodger Debris. As a director, it would have to be “OLIVER! The musical.” The production won “Best Event of 2022” at the York Mix Awards. I was so proud. Still am.
Q What do you find most challenging as a director?
Easily the most challenging part of directing is conveying your vision to others. I need actors to understand the role they’re playing, to see the show through my eyes. Only then can they bring my vision to life. A good actor takes your direction and acts upon your advice to achieve this.
Q What advice would you give a young person looking to get into acting and singing?
Short answer: Just go for it. Don’t worry about being good enough. You are. Long answer: Join a community theatre company. A good one will not only teach you the basics of acting and stage craft but also give you the confidence to perform.
Q What does the future hold for NE Theatre?
So, so much. First, there’s our winter show, “A Christmas Carol.” Then we’ll be working on our production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is in the diary for April 2024. A favourite of our late president, Mavis Macheder, who led NE Theatre for 60 years, my hope is that it serves as a kind of tribute.
Favourite musical? Either “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
Best costume? I have two. Either Fagin in “Oliver!” or Narrator in “Into the woods.”
Who would you have at a dinner party? I would have loved to have had dinner with Kenneth Williams
If you could play any character, who would it be? Javert in “Les Misérables.”
Acting or directing? Both. But as my life goes on, directing.
What did you want to be when you grew up? An Artist. I loved painting pictures.
Who is your role model? My Dad.
What are you most thankful for? Meeting Kelvin Grant, my husband.
What is your proudest moment? The day I got married. My proudest moment on stage was when I played Fagin in “Oliver!” I received a standing ovation!
Steve Tearle is directing NE Theatre York in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Tuesday 28th November to Saturday 2nd December. Tickets are available from josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.