Shirley Beth Newbery: DQ’s first International Woman of the Arts

“Having spent 25 years working as an actress in the UK, mainly in theatre, I had grown to love plays which provide me and others with a message. I trained in a great school which gave touring productions during our training, and this is pretty unique. Having had several great roles I decided to move into cultural theatre and learn the art of directing. It was after attending TED in Arusha, Tanzania, that I set up my own company – Infusionarts. Taking community theatre to villages and locations all over. I love exploring theatre to enhance life in general or to at least show it. Since then I have grown to love writing and taking on producing shows that can take some risk. What do I mean by that? Well , for me its about not making judgments or keeping to the traditional styles of directing  but to engage in what really happens in life. Exposing some awkward and sometimes offensive graphic acting to create real stories. As an artist, for me, its about stretching and developing. This leads to further ones understanding and acknowledgement to our surroundings indirectly and directly.”
IMG_6339.JPGThis is the opening remarks of the inspiring Shirley Beth Newbery.
This bubbly presence, calling everyone “babes,” is the candy-coating to an open heart, benevolent spirit, and expansive mind. Her latest play, AFTER THE WAKE, takes a new direction in discussing the “after life” – that is the life of loved ones after one’s passing. In this case, a surprise decision regarding the bequeathing of effects, lands on the family of a deceased mother in all too different ways. Directed by Laurie Rae Waugh, Newbery’s clever verbiage and thoughtful and thought-provoking plot will do the same for the audience – land on each in different and palpable ways.

“I am blessed to know those who work with me

and thank Laurie ]Rae Waugh]

for showing me this production in full.”

Currently back home in the U.K. Newbery sent us a few thoughts for printing.
You seem to enjoy plays are clever twists on relationships. is this sort of your “scheme’ or “mission”? 
With regards to two clever twists on relationships, and if its a theme, well, I think that many relationships have issues and secrets. I like to explore those, when people- watching in cafes, or simply listening to conversations that are clearly dealing with some personal stuff or things that create tension, I use what I can. This particular play is based on real people from my home town in the South of Devon, UK. Harry is a person who would buy up property and exploit individuals from their homes.  If you use theatre to create life situations in any style then I do believe you are demonstrating life, and if this is a theme for me then so be it!
I’ve seen your name associated with acting, directing, playwriting, and producing … do you feel being a Jill of all trades is necessary in the 21st century? And – just between us – what’s your favorite? 
I am associated with having experience in Acting, directing , producing and now writing but this provides me with an opportunity to create and work on what I enjoy. There does seem to be a tendency for those in the arts to have more then one option now but I think this assists with gaining consistency in working  with in the arts and so having a skill in more then one can help. Personally I like to move forward from acting and so have been aiming to focus on directing which is my passion and love. I get rewarded watching actors create and work together and grow. I also do tend to coach whilst I am directing, and give many new comers to the industry a chance to grow and gain confidence. I have been blessed to have worked with some amazing skilled talented people, and I thank Mark Travis for my directing skills and passion. 
What’s it like being a woman in the arts in New York in the 21st century? Are you from here? Let’s add that into it. What’s next?   
What’s it like being a woman in the arts in New York in the 21st century? This is a very interesting and important question for me. I think that New York is a little shy and nervous overall to embark on , shall I say, a more real, non concerned approach with all that is happening in the world many want to keep their eyes shut, and not upset or offend anyone.  I remember doing an audition for a agent, manager and asked if he would like to have this addressed to him during the very engaging monologue. He said , certainly’ but once finished he said that is was very offensive and  not appropriate. I used the word ‘ cock’ ! I thought that if a well known play from the West End is offensive for using this word then I have my work cut out for me.  oops, I used it again! I do not wish to offend but I believe that theatre is a part of life and wish to expand that life awareness using theatre. Being a woman, well, I never have or used this to stop me but I am writing more and more about life which tends to include woman. I like this play as it has tension but so much unsaid love. That holding back is the route of many problems in relationships. Being from the UK I wish to explore what I can do in New York.  It is slightly different but again we have traditional performances all around us, weddings , funerals  etc.
What’s next?   
Whats next for me, is to complete a play called , Divided or fall, a play which explores the young woman trapped in a sex slaved market with the Officers in Germany during World War 2. A great play for woman but again a little risk and realness in places! I am also looking to develop my company and of course work. 

Wednesday – Sundays, August 7 – 18
Serene Sargent Theatre
part of the American Theatre of Actors complex of arthouses

Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
matinees on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Tickets $20 at the door

314 W 54th St, New York, NY 10019

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