In our monthly series of “The Faces of Sherborne” we introduce you to the people behind the faces. This month (November 2011)
MEET JENNIE WARD
FROM AMATEUR PLAYERS OF SHERBORNE
If you have ever been to one of the Amateur Players of Sherborne’s (APS) plays you are bound to have come across Jennie Ward. Either as one of the actors or as the director, Jennie has been involved with APS for many years and is one of their most long-serving members. But don’t think that is all this lively, feisty lady is all about, she has many other admirable qualities and talents. In younger days Jennie excelled at dressage and became a riding instructor, she is a huge lover of animals, especially dogs, she is an amateur ornithologist, she teaches horticulture and above all she is an active Christian.
- Read the full interview with Jennie Ward below:
Q: When did your love for acting begin?
JW: Well I would say when I was about two and a half, in other words, as soon as I could walk and talk fluently. I was always reciting and always happiest when I was playing a part or “on stage”. I was born in Sherborne and after attending Sherborne Girls’ School went to a Swiss language school but I always wanted to act so I studied drama for two years at the Webber Douglas School for Singing and Dramatic Art.
Q: Did you take up acting professionally after that?
JW: Yes. My first job was with the London Children’s Theatre when I played a dog painting her nose black! Fortunately, I did progress from that and got a nine month season in Perth as Assistant Stage Manager. I joined the rep company and played two plays a fortnight on alternating nights – that’s a lot of costume and set-changing! I remember getting the lead role in “She Stoops to Conquer” – that was a favourite of mine. Eventually I moved on to Chichester but something called Selected Employment Tax was brought in and they cut back like mad, including me!
Q: What happened next?
JW: I decided to follow another passion of mine – horses. I’d been brought up learning to ride, in fact at one time I used to hunt, and I really love horses and riding so I went off to learn how to be a riding instructor. Once I had passed my instructors’ exam I set up on my own and founded the North Dorset Equitation Centre. I feel I have a natural gift for teaching and I really enjoyed the whole business. I got involved in dressage as well and to me there were lots of parallels with acting – you’re still putting on a performance!Later on, I became an instructors’ instructor – that was very rewarding.
Q: You seem to enjoy passing on your knowledge.
JW: Indeed I do. I now help teach gardening at Sherborne Girls and there is huge satisfaction seeing others blossom as a result. I spend quite a time teaching first years and it is wonderful to see these children outdoors away from their computers, connecting with the natural environment.
Q: What about your personal life during all of this time. What was home like?
JW: I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as successful on that front. I was married three times and unfortunately never had children but I had my teaching and my animals and also I became a devout Christian.
Q: How has that manifested itself?
JW: I get involved in all sorts of ways. I attend St Pauls @ The Gryphon and help out there. We have a very good Sunday School and I help with the music group and the choir. I’m also on the social committee with the Abbey. There are a lot of very meaningful pastoral activities at St. Pauls, helping fathers and single mums, the bereaved, all sorts.
Q: During all of this you have been a part of APS. Has it changed over the years?
JW: Yes. When I first auditioned I got the lead in “Angels in Love” and then there was “The Boyfriend” but APS has been quite ambitious with some of its plays and I actually think there was a bit of an audience change after we performed “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” in the 80s. We continue to be ambitious and hopefully provide a wide range of theatre, from this year’s Toad of Toad Hall to our current American production to Terry Pratchett and Shakespeare next year.
Q: So tell me about the autumn play that APS is putting on in November. You’re directing it, I believe.
JW: Indeed I am. It’s “Our Town”, the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Thornton Wilder, written in 1938. It’s set in New Hampshire between 1901 and 1910 and has 33 in the cast. There is hardly any staging so the performances are even more exposed than usual but we are led through the whole play by the character of the Stage Manager. We have some wonderful new young actors and it’s lovely to see them developing and growing with these parts.
Q: It must take up a huge amount of your time.
JW: It usually takes about three months from auditions to putting on the play and it is demanding but I love it. When I finish, I always seem to be just as busy with all of my other activities and of course there are always the dogs who keep me busy.
Q: How many are there?
JW: There are four – all different: a Labrador called Tess; my eldest, a Bedlington terrier called Pumpkin; a German Shepherd called Delphi who is the youngest and Peaches, my Collie-cross. I take them out two or three times a day so they keep me focused. There’s also my remaining pony, Brownie, so I’m constantly busy, but that’s how I like it!