SELECTION OF ALUMNI
First Act Theatre was formed in 1991, so our Alumni over the last 20 years or so has been huge. Cheryl Cole was a member, and Jill Halfpenny performed in our first show on which Ant & Dec operated the fly gallery. There are so many names that we can mention, so many that have gone on to work in the industry and many more who just enjoyed First Act and all that it has to offer. Here are a few Alumni who wanted to share their experience
Field of Industry: Actress & Producer
My name is Molly Roberts & I am an Acting graduate of the Guildford School of Acting. I work professionally in Theatre & Television (BBC/Channel 4) and have recently been nominated for an Off-West End Theatre Award for Best Female Performance. I am also the Artistic Director of my own company Poleroid Theatre which champions emerging creative talent and am co-creating a new comedy television series.
I attended First Act Theatre From 1999 – 2008 and my time there was a hugely significant & beneficial part of my life. I initially attended weekly workshops and then was lucky enough to get cast in numerous First Act productions. Being allowed the freedom to experiment during workshops in a fun, safe environment from such a young age was fantastic. It enabled my improvisational skills & imaginative capacity to grow. The productions I was part of were both challenging & hugely enjoyable, but what is particularly unique about First Act Theatre, is the amount of responsibility it gives it’s young actors. We were treated like professionals throughout our time there, and both the directors and students alike took the work very seriously which is a fantastic environment to learn from. I was given the opportunity to take significant roles in several plays and musicals, from Sondheim (Into The Woods) to restoration comedy (The Country Wife), and classic plays such as The Railway Children. This allowed me to develop my text and character skills. As I got older, working with professionally trained Actress & Director Lynne Wilmot in my preparation for Drama School auditions was a huge advantage.
First Act also allows you to take on other production roles such as working as part of the stage management team & unlike other youth theatre companies, First Act has a fully functioning fantastic resident theatre – The Jubilee Theatre - which the young company are allowed & trusted to take over and treat as their own which is a very special and rare opportunity. Most importantly of all, First Act not only gave me a very solid grounding in the Arts, but also allowed me to make friends who have all gone on to pursue acting and which are still my best friends to this day.
Field of Industry: Theatre Marketing & Communications
After leaving Gosforth High School (and previously St Cuthbert’s High School), I went to De Montfort University in Leicester to study Drama. After graduating, I started working as an Usher, Box Office Assistant, Barman and Stage Door Keeper at Leicester’s new Curve theatre, really getting to know all aspects of professional theatre. After volunteering on my days off in the Marketing department – stuffing letters and taking calls, I successfully gained a full-time role as part of the team and worked my way up to Marketing Officer. As well as staging some of the world’s finest touring work, the venue produced its own work – having an outstanding reputation for both drama and musicals. I was lucky enough to work very closely with, and for, a hugely varied of list of talented theatre-makers, companies and performers including; Paul Kerryson, Caroline O’Connor, Lucy Schaufer, Akram Kahn, Janie Dee, Michael Buffong, Filter, the RSC, Kneehigh, Bill Kenwright, Andrew Wright, Bill Deamer, Rob Ashford, Julian Ovenden, Ria Jones and many more. I also was responsible for the marketing campaign and launch of Harvey Weinstein’s new musical Finding Neverland.
Following my time in Leicester, I returned home to Newcastle, where I joined the marketing department at the Theatre Royal. I was responsible for their marketing activity, including the sell-out successes of their huge annual pantomime, Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver, Dirty Dancing, various Matthew Bourne productions and the popular RSC seasons.
I have now moved on, to take up the role of Communications Manager at Northern Stage, where I lead a team of people who drive sales and communicate the messages about the work produced and presented there, both on-stage and off.
I joined First Act at the age of 11, and instantly threw myself into anything I could, maximising all of the great opportunities made available to me. I appeared on stage in a varied range of roles – from Albert the Horse in The Wind in the Willows, to Wall in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When not performing, I was always involved in a production – crew, lighting, stage management or box office. I also enjoyed the musicals workshops, and the theatre marketing course... which I suppose really kick-started my interest in Theatre Communications, and the career I have today. I am certain I can attribute many of my professional successes to my time at First Act, and I still part of that very special community. As a child, my confidence, social skills, theatre skills and talents all grew at First Act, and some of my closest friends in adult life, I met there. It still feels amazing to walk into a professional theatre setting and after a few minutes’ conversation with someone, realise we both went to First Act.
Field of Industry: Television, Shooting Assistant Producer
I joined First Act Theatre when I was 11 and spent over ten years as an active member before moving away from Newcastle. I spent just as much time working behind the scenes in stage management, sound and lighting as I did on stage (and for some productions was doing both!).
For the last nine years I have been working in TV production where I currently work as a Shooting Assistant Producer. I have worked across many entertainment and reality series including 'Strictly Come Dancing', CBBC's 'Friday Download', 'Weakest Link', 'Location Location Location', 'May The Best House Win' and 'Coach Trip'.
I have brilliant memories of my time at First Act and am still close with many of the friends I made during my time there. Not only did I get to regularly perform on stage in a variety of productions, but I cultivated a love of the technical side of theatre that helped point me towards the career I have today. My job often requires me to go out filming on my own, where alongside being producer, director and cameraman I'm also responsible for the sound and lighting, just like I was back at First Act.
Field of Industry: Comedian, Actor & Writer
John-Luke Roberts is a comedian, writer and actor. He’s written for a variety of TV and Radio Shows, including “The News Quiz” and “Have I Got News For You". He plays “Computer” in Radio 4 sci-fi sitcom “Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully”, and plays “Harry” in Bain and Armstrong’s new channel 4 comedy-drama “Babylon”. He performs one man shows every year at the Edinburgh Fringe, and is the co-founder of the “Alternative Comedy Memorial Society”, an experimental comedy night at the Soho Theatre in London.
First Act was a great place to start acting. It was always a huge amount of fun, and a great place to make friends, but also a place to seriously learn how to make theatre. I’ve got many happy memories, and learnt a lot.
Field of Industry: Theatre, Head of Stage
I attended First Act Theatre from aged 10 until 18 and appeared in a number of the shows playing roles such as Sophie in the BFG and Snug the Joiner in Midsummer Nights Dream. Due to my inability to sing I soon became a regular member of the backstage team on all the musicals! It didn't take long before I was appearing more backstage than onstage and fell in love with the nuts and bolts of technical theatre. It was here that I started to develop what was to become a long career in technical theatre.
Whilst at First Act I learnt to operate lights, fly shows, call shows, stage manage, paint sets and build sets! This experience led me to study for a BA(Hons) in Stage Management and Technical Theatre at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
Since graduating 10 years ago I have worked in stage management at Bristol Old Vic, on the Mamma Mia! International Tour, White Christmas, Evita UK tour and for Sadlers Wells as well as many smaller projects. I also gained a strong technical knowledge through my degree leading me to work as technical swing on the Rocky Horror UK tour and as part of the lighting team at Sadlers Wells. I now mainly work in production management; working as Head of Stage for Assembly Festival at the Edinburgh Festival and as a production manager for London based theatre company Ridiculusmus.
Field of Industry: Actor & Dancer
Peter trained at Guildford School of Acting graduating in 2013. Since then Peter has worked as an actor in the UK and abroad performing with Schaubühne, Berlin in MEAT in early 2014; and is currently working with Akram Khan on 'One side to the Other' at the Lowry, Manchester.
Alongside this Peter has also been creating his own dance-theatre work.
Most recently he was short-listed for Sky Arts Academy Prize 2014 and is currently working on a dance theatre film commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society.
"I was a member of First Act Theatre for over ten years! It has been a huge part of my life and given me so much. It gave me the opportunity to perform year after year , playing so many different kinds of parts and really explore what I loved doing. The quality of the teaching there as well as advice from guest directors and master-classes, also taught me so much that I took into my training and beyond!"
Field of Industry: Dancer, Teacher & Choreographer
I attended First Act Theatre from 1992 until 2000 and loved every minute of it. I learned many performance skills within Acting, Singing and Dancing and was given some amazing performance opportunities not only in First Acts wonderful Jubilee Theatre but also acting in 'Byker Grove' and presenting on ITVs Disney show. The teaching team are skilled, supportive and creative and really care about their students creative growth. I made some life long friends at First Act Theatre and created some of my fondest memories.
Since leaving First Act I went on to graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University where I obtained a BA Honours degree in Contemporary Dance and Choreography. I set up my dance school Feet First Dance in 2003 which has now been successfully running for 12 years. In 2003 I became partner of Jemms Performance Company and I have recently taken over directorship of the company directing 3 Musical productions a year. I was made Director of Dance at The Royal Grammar School in 2006 where I still work today choreographing large dance productions.
I have recently just been made Contemporary Choreographer on a new production entitled 'Murphy's Legacy' which will premiere at the Sage Gateshead in 2015.
I feel that First Act Theatre equipped me with the skills and confidence to go out and make a career out of my love and passion for performing, I know that many of my peers are also thankful to First Act and remember the company fondly.
"I attended First Act Theatre for many years, having joined at about the age of 10. I loved acting and I know my parents were relived to find a relaxed and welcoming environment for me to flex my dramatic talents, without feeling like they had dropped me off at a pushy stage camp!
First Act was such an important part of my childhood and although I saw it as a way to have fun with my friends and practise what I loved, I now appreciate it for the wider skills it taught me and the life lessons it provided.
Back in the nineties it was not necessarily recognised that theatre companies could help with confidence and interpersonal skills, particularly in the workplace. But today you see lots of adverts for these training courses; from business skills by RADA to confidence coaching.
At First Act we learned to work together as a team, carry ourselves with confidence, make eye contact, improvise and read a situation; all skills that seem even more vital today as we are absorbed by technology and avoid direct communication.
Before getting into Corporate Communication, I practised as a Criminal Barrister and there were lots of skills that I learnt at First Act that carried through to closing speeches. And today, working in communications – I wish I could send adults to First Act for a crash course!"
Global Corporate Communications – Young & Rubicam Advertising.
"I loved my time at first act. It helped develop me as a person and provide me with social skills I still use today. Looking back at the time I was involved (over 20 years ago) they still stand out as my fondest memories. I would urge anyone to get involved as it can only provide positive experiences and friends for life."
Accounting Technician - Gateshead Council
"I joined First Act when I was in middle school, I was a very shy and creative girl and one of my school friends suggested I would enjoy getting involved with First Act. It ended up being the best thing I could have done at that time, I made friends who had the same interests as me and found that I could come out of my shell and build my confidence in the things I loved doing. My years spent at first act were amongst the happiest I have had. I have the sweetest memories of the excitement of trying costumes on for the first time and the happiness I felt at rehearsals for the December show. Christmas wasn’t Christmas without taking part in a festive show at Jubilee Theatre! We put on fantastic performances, from a Christmas Carol to Cinderella very year. I absolutely loved each and every one. I sadly had a bad accident when I was 13 and because of my injury I could no longer take part in the shows. My friends and the managers at First Act were incredibly supportive. They did everything they possibly could to make sure I could still be part of the productions. I started to take on different roles, from stage management and direction to designing and making props and costumes. This was a fantastic opportunity for First Act to create for me. I would have been lost without my friends and the shows, and through doing this work I developed a strong ambition and talents in design and my artistic skills. Without a doubt this inspired me to pursue a career I chose. I achieved a First Class Degree in Digital Creative Practice in 2012 and I have worked full time in arts and heritage since this time. I now work as a Content Curator in regional press here in the North East. I can honestly say that if it were not for the personal and professional development, the impact on my confidence and the strong friendships that I formed because of my time spent at First Act I do not think that I would have had the success and achievements that I have."
Content Curator - Regional Press
"My experiences at First Act helped develop my confidence and social skills in a way school could not have achieved. Having joined the group in my early teens, it was definitely something I looked forward to every week, somewhere I could be myself and meet a whole range of interesting people. Although I’m not working in the field of drama, the skills First Act helped me build are something I have taken with me into adult life, and for this I am very grateful.
The weekly workshops gave me a chance to make friends and experiment with my own ideas. It inspires creativity in a very relaxed atmosphere, giving you confidence in your own ideas. Ultimately, though, there was nothing better than putting on a show! The satisfaction of showing an audience something you’ve been working hard on for months is a feeling I won’t forget, and still inspires me in my professional work. . I would encourage anyone to take part in this theatre company, if only to meet the friendly, diverse crowd it attracts and to learn a little more about the theatre."