JULIE ROOT might be expected to be putting up her feet and having some time out having just retired after a 31 year teaching career.
But she’s having none of it. The Holme Valley drama specialist is back in the thick of what she loves best – theatre. And she seems to be thriving on it.
She’s all for widening her already vast knowledge of theatre and is enjoying sharing her experience and learning yet more new skills.
“I’ve signed up with Industry Casting which provides extras for TV and film. Ironically, when I did my first job as an extra, they cast me as a teacher in Waterloo Road,” said Julie.
She’s also using her skills working for a company which specialises in using role play to help staff training and development in industry and business.
First though comes a role as a director with Huddersfield Thespians.
Her production for the company of Jim Cartwright’s play, Two opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Tuesday. It is in the Cellar theatre space and runs every evening at 7.45pm and there is a Saturday matinee at 2pm.
Julie is from Coventry but came north to train at Bretton. She came to love Yorkshire and never left.
She met her husband Peter, who was then a maths teacher and they have twin boys.
Julie taught for 10 years at Colne Valley High School and the rest of her teaching career at Shelley, a real hotbed for turning out young theatre and arts professionals.
“It’s not just the Jodie Whittakers and the Lena Headeys,” she said. “There are people working at the BBC who are from Shelley and others doing all kinds of arts related careers.
“When I was doing Waterloo Road, there was an ex-student working in continuity.
“Doing work as an extra on something like that isn’t glamorous. It was just fascinating watching. I’m in an enviable position. I’m doing what I’m doing not for income but for interest.”
Julie’s involvement with the Thespians began when she was still teaching and looking for something to do for herself.
“We did so many productions at Shelley, it was a really exciting time. But I wanted to do something for myself.
“I joined the Thespians and have to say that before then I’d been a bit of an amateur dramatic snob.
“But it’s the best thing I ever did and it’s something I should have found time to do before.”
Julie has built up a reputation with the Thespians as a fine actress and they were clearly just waiting for her to retire so that they could ask her to direct for the company.
“When I was working, I could just about cope with the concentrated six week rehearsal period, but I never thought I could direct when I was still teaching,” she said.
“I finished this summer and as soon as they knew I was retiring, they asked me to direct.
“Two by Jim Cartwright is an excellent play for my debut. I first saw a production of Road by the same writer when I took a group of sixth form theatre students to the National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough.
“The writing was raw and yet at times poetic, the characters bleak but believable. The hard-hitting style, emphasised by the inclusion of direct address was something I hadn’t really experienced before.
“After this, Road and Two became popular texts for my GCSE and A level performance students. So being already familiar with the text when I was asked to direct Two this season, I jumped at the chance.”
Two is set in a northern pub and follows the evening’s events as seen through the eyes of both the pub customers and the troubled landlord and landlady. Julie has two actors, Thespians’ president Steve Marsden and Rebecca Starrett playing all 14 characters.
“I’ve got two really experienced performers in Steve and Rebecca. I want the audience to see the skill of the actors but also to believe in the characters that they create.”
And with that directorial debut for the Thespians under her belt, Julie will be back in rehearsal, this time playing a Labour whip in Steve Thompson’s political comedy, Whipping It Up which the company will stage in January.
Tickets for Two from the box office on 01484 430528.