Muriel Romanes

Muriel Romanes

How would you describe your current job and what do you like best about it?
I am the Artistic Director of Stellar Quines and I am responsible for all the research, development, programming and production of creative material that is put in front of our audiences.  I handle the brokering of collaborative projects and for all artistic elements associated with the Company.  I am also involved in mentoring emerging artists and helping to make opportunities for them through the Company.  The best thing about this job is its eclectic nature and how each day throws up so many exciting opportunities.  I do not like living in a world of “rules” and try always to keep my mind open to new inspirations and ways of doing things.

What was your first ever job?
Working in Boots Library in Princes Street.

What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Working with Michael Boyd and the Tron Theatre 22 years ago when I was cast in a production of The Guid Sisters which toured to Harbourfront Theatre in Toronto and the Centaur Theatre in Montreal.  The friendships and creative relationships encountered then have influenced the work I have done and am doing now.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
To be a plant hunter and cling to rock faces in Nepal and India in search of the exotic un named species of “something or other”.  I would have loved to have been Marianne North or any of the women out of Judith Adams’ piece Sweet Fanny Adams.

In our new production ANA the main character splits when she’s faced with a difficult decision and takes both paths. Have you ever reached a fork in the road – which path did you take?
I reached the fork in the road when I decided to give up my acting career and become a director.  I had spent some time in a soap opera and my enthusiasm for acting was becoming less challenging in a creative way. But because of my profile on TV I was being offered leading parts and, although really wonderful to be challenged, I needed to have directors who could help me navigate my way through these challenges.  I did not have that and this was the reason for taking the directors path, to make sure that I could and would excite people to create “extraordinary” things.  Art is the business of creating new realities.  This may seem arrogant in the extreme but I wish I had had someone who would have made my acting career more exciting.  It has always been my desire to enthuse and inspire others and infect others with a passion for theatre.

Who or what would you be now if you’d taken the other road?
An out of work older actress who adores gardening.

Killer, psycho, scientist, wife – if you could only pick one which would it be?
Science has always fascinated me as it is an arena for creating great theatricality and it holds the most exciting systems for understanding life.

You were recently chosen as one of the top 100 ‘hot Scots’ of 2011. Who would your number one ‘hot Scot’ be?
My 96 year old Father who lives at the edge of the sea in the Highlands.  He was the Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh University and in the 50’s he worked at Columbia University NY as a research fellow on Motor Neurons and the Sense of Place.  To this day, these findings have provided a structural foundation for analysis for the neutral control of movement and serve as a guide for studies to explore mechanisms that direct the wiring of spinal motor circuits.  Thomas Jessell and John Kelly both scientists are developing my Fathers research and using it for future scientific research.

What do you order at the bar once the show has come down?
A drink for everyone involved in the show and maybe a small libation for myself.

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
The amazing Catherine Begin who is one of the Quebec actors in ANA.  She is in the mould of the wonderful actresses such as Simone Signoret and is a major actress in Quebec.  She exudes the past world of theatre but is very much rooted in the present.  She has played all the great parts and teaches young actors at the Montreal acting academy.

Marcella Evaristi

What do you do in theatre?
I am a playwright and an actor.

How long have you been doing it?
Since I gave up my Phd on Women in the Theatre to become a woman in the theatre.

What was your first ever job?
I lasted one night working behind a bar in Highgate. I can’t count and guessed the change.   My improvisatory skills were not appreciated. Being sacked was a relief and the next month I moved to Edinburgh to continue my doomed postgraduate studies.

What was the contact or opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Robert Nye was Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University when I was doing the post-grad thing but actually acting and writing. He said “do you really want to be an academic? Because I think you are a poet and a writer. Wouldn’t you like to apply for a Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary with my back-up?”  Without him I could now be teaching Gender and Performative Studies at Wolverhampton University.  No offense to… (I’m too old to fake any interest in finishing  that sentence)

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
I think regretting nothing is only convincing if you sing the non-regretting, sparrow-like and in French. I firmly believe that my unending practise of pointlessly re-editing the story of my life (inventing unanswerable lines I never uttered, spiritedly leaving men I never left in my head etc)  has been the perfect conservatoire for my job of making things up.   Musicians practise scales and I take my retrospective yearnings for a rigorous daily workout.  So now my regrets are very toned.

What’s your most memorable moment in the theatre?
David Tennant playing Hamlet is the most recent memorable. Along with watching Into the Woods at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park and seeing Francie and Josie onstage at the Alhambra Theatre when I was a kid – Scottish vaudeville, Sondheim, Shakespeare what a line-up. . .

What’s your favourite play?
Hamlet.  “I could be bounded  in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”

What advice would you give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
Hire the hall, design the poster and then having painted yourself into a corner, go for it!

What do like best about working in theatre?
That your  secret nutshell world becomes a realised populated universe.  That the little  pilot light has turned into a hush of expectation, carpenters have carpented and words have been learnt off by heart, and a story is beginning.

How does working with an actress like Maureen Beattie help playwrights develop their work?
Maureen and I plotted our future lives in theatre at convent school together. I wrote my first full length play, Hard to Get,  with her and Peter Kelly in mind. That was a brilliant adventure.  Also, I think she knows that tragedy and comedy are really one mask. And we are so glad to be out of uniform  and properly dressing up now.

Who would be your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
Sarah Collier  who starred in my play Wedding Belles and Green Grasses and broke my heart nightly. She is the real deal.  Subtle, smart and powerful.  I love that she combines the classy with the mischievous too. It’s an irresistible combination. Also she looks good in hats.  I’m not sure she ever wore a hat in any of my plays actually, but maybe that’s another opening of another play.

Maureen Beattie

Maureen Beattie

How long have you been associated with Stellar Quines?
Since early 2006 when I directed Perfect Pie by the Canadian writer, Judith Thompson, for a Stellar Quines tour.

What was your first ever job?
When I was about 12 I was in This Man Craig, a drama series for BBC TV. It was set in a Comprehensive school and I was one of the second year pupils. My first ever paid line as an actor was the immortal, “2b, Miss Duncan.”!

What was the contact or opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
The late Stephen MacDonald, who first cast me as Rosalind in As You Like It at Dundee Rep, kept me on for that season and then took me with him when he became Artistic Director of The Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. He gave me the chance to play some of the greatest roles ever written for a young actress. It was an amazing time.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
Apart from some exceptional cases, I truly believe that each decision you make, each fork in the path you choose is neither better nor worse than any other – they’re just different.

What’s your most memorable moment in theatre?
Waiting to go on as Medea in Liz Lochhead’s brilliant adaptation of Euripides’ drama that she wrote for Theatre Babel. It was in The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow and, as I stood behind the curtain waiting to go on stage, I suddenly remembered that my Mum, who had died some years before, was responsible way back in the 1970s for the Fruitmarket becoming a performance venue in the first place. I spoke to her and asked her to help me to rise to the challenge ahead of me on stage that night. As I heard my cue coming up I felt her put her hand on the small of my back and give me a gentle push forward. The feeling of being watched over and inspired by her presence stayed with me till the end of the performance. I’ll never forget it.

What’s your favourite play?
Medea – see above!

What advice would give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
For me it doesn’t get much better than the following from Theodore Roosevelt – “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms; who, at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

What do you like the best about being an actress?
The incredible people you get to meet and work with.

What do you order at the bar once the show has come down?
Large glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

What’s the item you always overlook on your list?
There’s always something but it’s never the same thing twice!

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
The actress, Colette O’Neill, who I’ve just been working with on Abi Morgan’s play 27 for NTS. She is everything I would wish to be as an actress – blazingly honest, constantly enquiring, full of courage, open of heart and soul, and filled with a generosity of spirit towards her fellow performers that brings out the best in everyone.

Marilyn Imrie

Marilyn Imrie

How long have you been associated with Stellar Quines?
I have been an ardent fan and supporter since the start in the 1990s

Apart from being the Chair of Stellar Quines’ board, what else do you do?
I am a freelance audio drama, theatre, voice over and animation director. I also teach short courses in techniques in audio drama at various drama colleges.

What was your first job?
Singing in pubs for money.

What was the first contact or opportunity that made a big difference in your career?
Singing in pubs and meeting the folk singer Archie Fisher.

What was the biggest opportunity you missed or wished you taken?
I never regret missed opportunities; there’s always another one coming along.

In Stellar Quine’s next show The List, the main character is an obsessive list maker. Do you make lists?
I do. And I make lists of lists I need to make. Then I lose them, or find them and can’t make sense of them anymore. But I still do it.

What’s your most memorable moment in theatre?
Seeing Ninegawa’s Medea at the Edinburgh Festival in the open air, when Medea reared up in a massive crane 100 feet above the audience raining curses down up on us all. And [if I‘m allowed two!] standing at the back of the old Fruitmarket in Edinburgh when a collective which I was a part of opened The Great Northern Welly Boot Show with Tom Mcgrath, Billy Connolly, Bill Paterson, Alex Norton and stripper Brandy de Frank , on John Byrne’s set, to a rapturous audience, while I held at bay the Edinburgh constabulary and fire departments, who, seconds before the show went up, had threatened to close us down. Eventually, they too were enthralled.

What’s your favourite play?
The Cherry Orchard… “Goodbye old house, goodbye old life……”

What advice would you give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
Form supportive groups, give due consideration to old as well as new ideas, remember that for many women who don’t come regularly to the theatre, it is about entertainment and a good night out. So always entertain them.

Who would your Stellar Quines of the month be?
Marcella Evaristi, who has been an inspiring, lightheartedly clever, inventive, trail blazing , wonderfully witty playwright in and beyond Scotland for over thirty years and overcome many personal challenges to continue doing so, while being the mother of two of Scotland’s brightest young stars in the worlds of visual art and theatre. And Una Maclean who at eighty can still draw a round of rapturous applause from an audience with just a backward glance and the killer delivery of a line.