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Feature: St Mary’s Alumna Returns to Direct Drama Production

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Feature: St Mary’s Alumna Returns to Direct Drama Production

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St Mary’s University, Twickenham has welcomed back alumna Katie Henry to direct its upcoming Drama St Mary’s production of Children in Uniform which will be performed from Wednesday 26th – Friday 28th March. In this interview Katie, who studied the St Mary's Undergraduate Drama programme and MA in Theatre Directing, and has worked on theatre productions including War Horse, talks about how St Mary’s helped develop her theatre career, how preparations for her upcoming shows are going, and how it felt to play host to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. What inspired you to get into theatre and directing? “I was involved in plays every year from my second year at school, and then in lower sixth form I assisted my teacher in directing a play. It was from there that I fell in love with it! I then chose to study at St Mary’s as they were one of the only universities that had a directing element to the Drama degree, and I directed a show in my third year. I suppose I wasn’t brave enough to be on stage, but I was most interested in the other side of things – understanding the psychology of characters and how to create the whole show rather than one character.” How influential was the MA in Theatre Directing for your career? “It was fantastic! It gave me an introduction to the professional world of theatre. It was a way of understanding how it works from a practical and career point of view. I learnt so much from my mentor, Sarah Esdaile (Visiting Lecturer at St Mary’s), about how to direct, how to give notes, and how to have a vision of a show and make it happen. It was instrumental in giving me the confidence to believe that I could do it.” How are preparations for Children in Uniform going? “Good - we’ve got a great team of 10 very keen actresses! When you do the first read-through of any show you get a real sense of what it’s going to be like and I’m confident that they’ll do me proud! We’re working with Tina Bicât (Costume Designer at St Mary’s), who is overseeing costume, and she’s great to work with and a real inspiration for the students!” You had a special guest at your show Grandpa Joe's Giant Storytelling Bed at the Southbank Centre! How did it feel to have the Duchess of Cornwall there? “It was really exciting! I’ve met her before at a War Horse event, which is another show I’ve worked on, and she was very nice and down-to-earth. It was really exciting for my two actors to meet her and there’s a brilliant photo of them all laughing, talking about bed socks! It was really special and it was nice to have somebody acknowledge and appreciate that work created especially for young people in important.” What other projects are coming up? “As well as Children in Uniform, I’ve got a couple of projects that will be in research and development, so I’m hoping to spend a few weeks leading workshops in the spring. I’m Associate Director of the UK & Ireland tour of War Horse, so I’ll be busy touring up and down the country with that. That’s it so far, but I’ve been quite busy so I’ll be glad for a bit of a break” What advice would you give to current MA Theatre Directing students? “Be prepared to learn from any opportunity that’s offered to you, and also make opportunities happen. I was very fortunate that Sarah Esdaile gave me an opportunity to assist her straight after completing my MA, and I think that was instrumental in formulating a foundation in understanding everything that I’d learnt in theory and being able to put that into practice in a professional setting. From then on I just wrote to everyone that I’d ever met. Understanding the role that everyone plays – including those in the box office – and how you might work together at some point is what’s so exciting about the theatre. Be prepared to work very hard for not much money, but if you really, really want it then you’ll make it happen somehow!” Children in Uniform will be performed by Drama and Theatre Arts students from Wednesday 26th – Friday 28th March. Tickets cost £5 and are available to all members of the public. For more information and to book, please see the Drama St Mary’s website.
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