Q&A: Meet Sam, Dinnington’s all-round entertainer

ENTERTAINER, teacher, mother - Samantha Smedley is a very busy woman but always finds time to for her Dinnington Operatics Society family.

First joining aged 17, Samantha has directed and co-directed as well as regularly performing in lead roles.

When she’s not performing she’s passing on her love of drama to schoolchildren in Worksop where she teaches and to her daughter, who has appeared alongside her on stage.

ADELE FORREST caught up with her in lockdown.

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Q: How did you first get into musical theatre? Do you have any memories of your first rehearsals, roles or performances.

A: I danced with a local dance school who joined with Dinnington Operatics for their pantomimes. I danced in my first panto in 1990 but was always incredibly shy so never really had the confidence to do anything other than dancing. I bit the bullet and decided to join DOS in 1997 for their production of The King and I. I remember being terrified at the first rehearsal, not having a clue whether I should have been singing soprano or alto and trying desperately not to draw attention to myself!

Q What part if any did you play in school productions? Were you nervous before curtain up or did you relish the spotlight?

A: Watching me in pantos and shows now you'd never believe how shy I was as a child so, unsurprisingly, I never had a part in any school productions. I do remember being a carol singer in an infant school nativity once! I distinctly remember wearing a blue striped bobble hat and scarf and carrying a lantern on a stick. I was definitely never putting my hand up volunteering for the role of Mary!

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Q: What are your stage ambitions? Is there anything you haven't achieved yet in the theatre world that you still want to? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I don’t really have stage ambitions - DOS is my hobby, my little bit of ‘me’ time where I get to have fun, see friends and do something I love. There isn't really any part I'm desperate to play or a show I'd love to do. I've enjoyed every show I've been in and every part I've played, all for very different reasons! I suppose playing Violet in last years production of 9 to 5 was my biggest achievement which I'm not sure I'll top - my first ever leading lady - thanks to director Ashley Booker for believing in me! In 10 years I'll still be with DOS, hopefully still playing fun character parts but if not I'd be happy plodding around in the chorus, or maybe even directing, something I've not done since Summer Holiday in 2007!

Q: Who have been your favourite people to work with over the years - have there been some memorable characters?

Panto is my favourite time of year and playing roles alongside John Green and Ashley Booker are always my favourite! Rehearsals and show week are always so much fun with so many little bits being added into the script! Working alongside Adrian Wilson was always an experience, with me having to learn both our lines - just in case! I have to also mention Trish Probert who gave me my first main role in a small production called Nunsense - a FIVE woman show about a convent. Trish was an inspirational woman and the heart of DOS. She gave me so much confidence and made me believe in myself. I hope I'm making her proud now!

Q: Why are you passionate about theatre?

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A: I'm passionate about theatre as it's accessible to everyone. There's so much emphasis placed on children being good at English and maths but what about the ones who find those things challenging? Theatre is a fabulous way for those children to achieve success. It's a way of expressing emotions, burning off energy, making friends etc. I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't started dancing then joined Operatics!

Q: What have been your most memorable shows and why?

A: I have loved every show and every part I've played - becoming a character so different to myself is so much fun! I absolutely loved Sister Act. The harmonies and the dances were such a challenge. Beauty and the Beast was also a favourite of mine, being such an iconic show, although being confined to a corner of the dressing room in my 'wardrobe' wasn't the most comfortable way to spend the show! I had to be fastened into my costume with tie wraps so once I was in, I was in!! Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques was so much fun too. Obviously, 9 to 5 is also up there as one of my favourite, most memorable shows. When we announced it was going to be our 2019 show never would I have believed I'd be playing the lead!

Q What is your fondest memory on stage or in theatre?

A: I have so many fond memories it's hard to choose just one. A huge moment was performing on stage at the NODA North East Gala weekend. DOS provided the Friday night cabaret a few years ago and it was the most terrifying experience I've ever been through but also the most exciting and most memorable. I also love how I'm passing on my love of theatre on to my five-year old daughter, Heidi. She dances with Julie Turner Stage Academy who join with us for our pantomimes which means I get to share the stage with her, doing what we both love doing. I shed a little tear of happiness in the finale of sleeping beauty, her first panto three years ago, when she was dancing her little heart out with me.

Q Have you had any particularly funny experiences or moments on stage or backstage?

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A It's always funny on stage when someone says a line wrong or calls someone the wrong character name. One of the funniest scenes I've ever done has to be when I played part of the comedy duo in Little Red Riding Hood alongside Alan Walker. There was a decorating scene which was the slapstick routine, very cleverly written by DOS member Russ Thornton. It involved lots of 'wallpaper paste' and getting messy. Although there was script written you never quite knew what was going to happen as there was so much slop and mess, we spent most of the time slipping around, struggling to stand up. Even though we wore overalls and wellies we were so messy I had to have a team of people backstage for after the scene to strip me off, wash my hair and get me redressed again ready for the next scene!

Q Coronavirus has caused huge disruption to theatre companies. How are you coping with this and keeping morale up?

A We have various Facebook groups for our DOS members where we are posting quizzes each day and funny stories etc. We are also using Facebook live to do an interactive quiz every Sunday. Even though you're sitting at home on your own you feel like you're with everyone! It's definitely helping! It's very strange not rehearsing or seeing people you'd usually see two or three times a week! We're really lucky that we hadn't started rehearsing for our next production and that our student academy had just finished their show before the lockdown began. I really feel for companies and societies that have had to cancel their shows and won't get chance to see the finished product of all their hard work.

Q What would be your message to someone who thinks they might like to be on the stage but isn't sure how to start.

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A Find a local society or a society who is doing a show that interests you and get in touch!! You don't have to start off with a main part - I spent many years in the chorus - they're just as important and are often a lot of fun with not as much pressure! Once you get the bug you'll never look back!

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