Today we’re continuing with our series ‘Meet the Team’ where we’re getting to know all those people whose job it is to bring you hj1act each year. [You can read part one HERE and part two HERE]. The team are members of The Swindon and District Theatre Guild [SDTG], a registered charity which hosts the Harold Jolliffe One-Act Play Festival. Find out more about the Guild HERE
In this, the third part of our series, we meet Paula Clifford; a long serving Guild member and Front of House Coordinator for hj1act. And that’s not all! Paula is also an award winning actress, director and writer. But don’t just take our word for it; here’s Paula to tell you all about herself, her love of theatre and her work with hj1act.
‘In 1988 my husband took me to a Christmas gathering at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes where he was already a member. At that time they had been unable to cast their spring production and were instead auditioning for ‘California Suite’ by Neil Simon. Someone asked me if I was interested and I replied that I had not acted since I was at school. With encouragement from my husband, and without knowing the play, I auditioned. The next day I received a phone call to say I had the part of ‘Beth Hollender’ from Chicago! For the ensuing months of rehearsals I drove my family mad by practicing my American accent whenever I could! My husband commented during this time that I would either hate acting and get it out of my system or I would get the bug! 25 years later I still have the bug!
In 1998 I joined The Clarendon Players Royal Wootton Bassett’s drama group. My first performance with the group was in March 1999 as the barmaid Sadie in ‘Time Murderer Please’. The play was set in the 60’s and I had to wear a bright pink feather hat!
In 2000 as a Clarendon Players committee member I attended my first Swindon and District Theatre Guild meeting. From that initial meeting I started on my festival journey. In 2003 I became a committee member of the Guild helping to organise the annual one-act festival.
In 2009 I directed and appeared in ‘Costa Del Packet’ by Anthony Booth; of ‘Till Death us do Part’ fame and Father of Cherie Blair. The 1970’s comedy sees four women off on a package holiday to Spain to be met by a very enthusiastic tour guide and a hotel not yet built! I directed the production and played the part of ‘Hump’ the tour guide. We had such fun with the play which was a hit with the audience and the adjudicator. We won the BBC Wiltshire audience award and I won the Audrey Suter trophy for best adult performance by an actress. Our adjudicator that year, Michael Kaiser told me that I had reminded him of a tour guide he had once met!
One of my best hj1act moments came in 2012 when The Clarendon Players were festival runners up with ‘Interior Designs’ by Jimmy Chinn in which I played the part of Irene as well as co-directing. Our adjudicator that year was Robert Meadows and he summed up the production as “the work of a confident team, who’d consciously approached and crafted the play in a way that was always involving and always intriguing too”
Last year my husband and I formed RWB productions to present an original script about WW1 at hj1act. The play ‘There Just Has to be a Better Way’ told the story of three men and their wives during WW1. To our delight the play won best original production and gained nominations for dramatic achievement, technical endeavour and best actor.
Performing and acting at hj1act is only a part of the festival experience for me. As a committee member of the hosts, the Swindon and District Theatre Guild, work begins in the autumn prior to the festival. The planning for hj1act is a big undertaking and the organising committee work extremely hard especially in the lead up to the festival. However the rewards are huge, meeting new entering companies and being reunited with returning ones, meeting and learning from our adjudicator, the enjoyment of watching new writing of various genres…..roll on hj1act 2015!’
Our thanks to Paula for popping into hjHQ to tell us all about herself. Paula brings a wealth of talent and experience to hj1act and plays a major role in the organisation and super smooth running of our festival. We’re not sure where she gets her energy, managing all this along with her day job and her writing, acting and directing but we’re certainly very glad she shares her sparkle with us!
NEXT UP: Guest blogger – our 2015 adjudicator Sue Doherty
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