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Photo  Peter Mould

Photo Peter Mould

Heather Alexander – Hastings Fringe Festival

HOT’s Sean O’Shea places the spotlight on Hastings Fringe Festival organiser Heather Alexander (HOT, Arts & Culture, Monday, Aug 24, 2015).  He talked with her about her background in the theatre, her hopes for the festival and her work as a drama teacher with local youth groups.  He also interviewed some of the young people involved in the festival.

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Heather could you tell us a bit about your background, how you became interested in drama and your journey in the theatre?

My mother, the late Jean Alexander – who died suddenly, last August, was a psychiatric nurse who then trained with The Guildhall to become a teacher of Speech and Drama. She loved the theatre and possessed a natural talent. I have appeared in shows since I can remember – as a child I played Brigitta in The Sound of Music for the Hastleons and for the Stables, I appeared in ‘Dear Octopus’, ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ and ‘Dr Faustus’ amongst others.

Acting has always felt very natural and organic for me even though my first professional work was as a dancer in Arlene Phillip’s ‘Hot Gossip’. I still got to act though as I was involved in the sketches for The Kenny Everett video show. Dancing, however, was not my passion and I left the group to pursue acting and very quickly got the role of Brooke Ashton in Noises Off at The Savoy Theatre, West End with Robert Bathurst and Lynda Bellingham.  I was in this play for two years and followed this by playing Heidi in ‘Look, No Hans’ at The Strand Theatre opposite David Jason (it was his first West End play).

Many theatre, TV and film parts followed and I enjoyed the life of a professional working actress for some years.

After the arrival of my two children, I moved back down to Hastings from London and became a teacher of English and Drama in several local secondary schools. I returned to acting a few years ago playing the roles of Shirley Valentine (one woman show), Martha from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and Amanda from Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ locally. I have also directed several projects locally including ‘Mine’ at The Stables which won best director in 2011.

After recovering from a serious illness, I discovered a joy for writing and have written several short plays. I am now in the process of writing a one-woman show. I recently have been approached about playing Shirley Valentine for a professional tour and, with my children both now at University, I feel that I am ready to ‘jump back into acting with both feet…’

I am currently promoting The Hastings Fringe Festival at The Stables Theatre which I am co-ordinating.

What inspired you to launch the festival?

The idea of running a Fringe Festival at The Stables was born from my own frustration of trying to find a venue to try out some new writing. I wanted to direct a piece that I had written and see how it worked so that I could edit and improve it before shelling out lots of money on rehearsal space and the of hiring a theatre. In my search, I came across several writer/directors and performers who were in a similar position who also required a platform to try out various projects. It struck me that there was a wealth of local talent who had nowhere to go! Thus when approached about the possibility of directing something for the 2015 season, it occurred to me that a mini Fringe Festival at The Stables would be an interesting challenge and an innovative opportunity for local artists from various disciplines to showcase their respective talents. I believe that by providing a platform for emerging (and established) writers, directors and performers, the Stables is nurturing new talent which is what I believe Theatre, in its broadest sense, should fundamentally be about.

What does the project entail and who is involved?

The Stables Fringe Festival will host new work by utilizing the various spaces around the Theatre as poets, musicians, comedians, writers, film-makers and performers of all types showcase their ideas. A major bonus for the artists is that they don’t have to pay for the venue to put on their work!

Many local artists both skilled amateurs and professionals will be involved.

Drama club for young people

You are interested in engaging young people in particular. How do you hope to encourage their interest and participation?

I have recently started a drama group for young people and we have been working on some devised pieces. They will be performing at The Fringe on Saturday, September 19th in the afternoon which also hosts work from other youth dance and drama groups. There will also be a free mask workshop and a surprise guest event too!

 

Youth group - photo Heather Alexander

Youth group- photo Heather Alexander

Alice & Albie

Alice and Albie – how did you became interested in drama and what have you enjoyed about being involved with Heather in the Hastings Fringe Festival.

I’m Alice and I’m fourteen years old. Ever since I was little I’ve had a passion for being a ‘drama queen.’  Watching a lot of films has influenced my passion. I think the main reason why I love drama so much is because whatever mood I’m feeling I can always just forget about it when I play a character. Drama is just one of those things that helps me relax and my passion has grown bigger every year and it has just become a part of my everyday life.

When I was looking for a new drama group, my mum looked up drama groups at the Stables and Heathers email popped up.

We are performing a play about a girl who has some sort of mental disability, basically it is the story of her life. This play shows a lot of emotion from the main characters and in my opinion is a very interesting play.

The benefits from being involved in the drama club are that I’ve learnt new ways of making my drama interesting and that it’s okay to take risks. Plus it’s a social activity so I’ve made a few new friends.

As far as the future goes, I would love to continue to study drama and its one of the options I’ve chosen to do for my GCSE’s. I would love to be an actress when I’m older or work in theatre so I really think this will help me achieve my goal.

My advice to other young people would be to join any drama club that interests them, like a summer youth project or anything like that. Also I would say to take the advice you’re given and never waste an opportunity that’s handed to you, as you never know the next time you will be able to do anything like that again.

And what about you Albie?

I am fourteen years old. My biggest passion in life is drama because from childhood I have liked the idea of being an actor, not to be famous but to inspire others to act from a young age.

Finally Heather, do you envisage this as a regular annual event?

The Hastings Fringe could be become a regular and important platform for the town and could grow to include other venues attracting an exciting and highly creative group of artists.

Festival dates and activities

The event runs from Tuesday 15 September – Saturday 19 September 2015. The theatre will open at 6pm and variety of activities will be available. There will be cabaret – with both local and professional acts, monologues, poetry readings, live piano and singing, short plays, longer new plays, stand-up comedy, film and dance. On Saturday 19th, a ‘Youth Afternoon’ will include some workshops and performances from local youth groups. There are a couple of surprise additions to the programme too!

 

  • For more information about the Hastings Fringe Festival and to book your tickets check out the Stables Theatre website stablestheatre.co.uk and the Hastings Fringe Facebook page www.facebook.com/Hastingsfringe
  • The Stables Theatre welcomes new volunteers particularly young people.

SOS

 

 

 

Posted 09:11 Sunday, Aug 30, 2015 In: SOS

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