My first love of theatre came as quite a small child when, being the only daughter of musical parents, I got dragged along to all sorts of rehearsals for concerts shows etc, which I loved, but I soon learned that the most interesting ones, for me, were the ones that had music, movement, dancing and were performed in fancy costumes, people came to see them, enjoyed them and went home happy. My Mum was the leader of the orchestra and Dad was the MD. When adults asked me ‘What do you want to be when you grow up dear’? My reply would be ‘An Actress’ to which I received a sharp clip round the ear from one or another parent and was told to ‘reply with something sensible’!!! At the age of 9, we moved from Lancaster to Harrogate and by the time I was 16, I left Harrogate Grammar School with two school plays and various concerts with the school choir under my belt. I joined Harrogate Operatic Players and for 9 years happily played in the chorus with various unnamed 1st girl parts to my credit then came Kings Rhapsody where I successfully auditioned for the part of Vera. By this time I was married to Charles and when his job moved to Bradford, so did the family and I joined Bradford G&S Society, the Bradford Players and Shipley AODS, that meant I could perform in at least two performances a year, one of which was always Gilbert & Sullivan. Playing in the Bradford Alhambra, a fantastic stage in a wonderful theatre, I performed Mother Abbess in ‘Sound of Music’, Bloody Mary (twice) in ‘South Pacific’ , Carrie in ‘Carousel’ and various other smaller parts in various musicals, G&S and operettas and working with top Directors and Musical Directors both professional and Amateur.
So life continued until I was invited to join ‘The Savoyards’, a rather elite Society who performed one G&S show per year but who took that show to the competitive Waterford International Festival in Ireland. Soon, as our reputation spread, we performed in Wales, America, Hungary, Majorca as well as various locations in the UK. Our Director and fellow performer was the late, great John Reed, patter man with D’Oyly Carte and from him I learned so much re stage presence, characters, positioning and reacting with other performers etc. In those 15 years I was with Savoyards, I played 22 different leading roles and performed in all of the G&S Operas, appeared on BBC television with James Shepherds Versatile Brass, made a recording and even a backing track for an advertisement for a famous DIY Store!!. I was then asked by Hedley Teale, a well known Musical Director in the Bradford area, if I would be willing to direct a G&S Society where he was MD. Heart in mouth I accepted and subsequently, with various productions performed on various sized stages from fully fledged theatres to Church Halls, mostly G&S but also Musicals and Plays to my credit here I am in Wetherby.
It is hard to say how many shows I have directed, I never bothered to count them but over the last twenty years, of the 13 shows in the G&S repertoire there is only the ‘Grand Duke’ I have left to direct, some I have done 5 or 6 times and, on average, I have directed at least two shows per year from as near home as Bingley to as far away as Settle and Wakefield.
When Charles died it was my friends in the Operatic circles who really kept me going and twelve years later where did I meet my present husband Graham? – you’ve guessed it, the Operatic Society!! Proud to say I am now a Regional Representative for NODA and my area is the centre of Bradford so you will find that although I am really Mrs Hardman I kept my previous married name of Smith for theatre work.
I am really looking forward to joining you in Wetherby, I hope we shall work hard and play hard together. I do like to try and make rehearsals fun, after all, we all do it for a hobby because we love theatre and that includes me.