18 Oct A Visit from a Multi-Talented Personality: Susie McKenna
Written by Alesha, Siah, Vedhasa and Aarool, Year 8 Young Reporters
‘Tell me it’s not possible and I’ll always try to find a way’- Susie McKenna
On the 11th of October 2019, the multi professional and motivational storyteller, Susie McKenna, made a visit to our school. An actor, director, creative producer and an author; she originally trained as a dancer and singer. She has been working in theatres for over 30 years! Our Young Reporters got a chance to interview Susie; it was an amazing experience and we learned many facts about acting and performing arts. We had a camera set up for preserving this precious moment.
“If you get any opportunities, you should take them as you might learn a thing or two” – Susie McKenna
Did you know?
Susie McKenna went to a comprehensive school in Leicester and dropped out of school at the age of 16.
She did her A Levels while working at a pub at the age of 19. It was not easy for her.
Susie started off as a dancer and then worked her way up to become a writer, director and an actor.
She has produced television documentaries for ABC in the USA and Channel 4 with ‘Battle Axes’.
She was a Pantomime writer and director for 21 years.
Earlier in her career, as a young performer, in order to get into ‘Cats’ the Musical show, Susie had to work extremely hard both physically and mentally.
In a work of adaptation of Christmas Carol, Susie had only 4 actors and 2 puppets to tell the story. Susie used her ability to think outside the box to make the show successful in the West End London.
At exactly 1:45 pm, Susie took us down memory lane, with her presentation about her life and how she came to be who she is now. Born in a poor family, her parents tried hard to give her opportunities such as saving up for her dance classes to make sure she had her best chance in life. The whole audience went silent, as we listened to Susie telling stories about her experiences in Performing Arts and her road to success.
“Never stop learning, never think that you now know it all. Learning is happening everyday of your life”.
Her first job was in the pub at 19 to make sure she had enough money to live a healthy life because she had left school at the age of 16 thinking it was “cool” but soon realised the challenges that came before her. Alongside her job, she had to do her A-levels with great difficulty in studying. Fortunately, she did get qualifications thanks to her determination.
“I thank the universe. I think I’m blessed”.
In ‘A Conversation with Susie’ we, the student reporters, had the chance to personally put our questions to her. One of us asked if Brexit is going to affect her in any way…..and in response she said it may affect her living in Spain but she was more concerned about us “not being able to work in a series of countries”. This shows the compassion she has for the younger generations and how she wants us to have the best opportunities at our age.
Some other interesting questions asked were…
What is your guilty pleasure? “I love Angry Birds and reading in the bath”!
What is the name of your favourite theatre? “The Hackney Empire Theatre with its magnificent figures still on display today”.
What does the future hold for Performing Arts? “At the moment it is getting harder and harder for creative studies, and Arts as a subject is deliberately marginalised and put in a corner. It is wrong as Arts creates thinkers who think in a different way. It helps with the mental well-being of people”.
The last, and most fascinating question we asked Susie, was how the expectations of actors and actresses would change over the years. Her response was that it’s not going to change; “the best singers and dancers are the best actors”. However, she said that the technology is changing as everyone is becoming more “tech savvy” and auditioning for actors is becoming more computerised.
Now for a small collection of questions:
Q. Who or what inspired you to be who you are now? A. My inspiration were my parents as they wanted me to become a singer: I was only allowed to watch what my dad watched as we didn’t have more than one television in the past. I watched comedies such as The Two Ronnies which inspired me to write stories.
Q. What was the most challenging moment in your job? A. My most challenging moment was when I was in Cats, dancing. I was one of the oldest there while everyone else was around 18 years old and I believe I was 35! It was very hard to kick up as high as them.
Upon reflection, the audience loved her visit. One of the students from Year 13, Joe, said “The experience of meeting Susie McKenna inspired me to work harder in my lessons as I have realised your upbringing circumstance doesn’t define your future career”.
Our SPECIAL THANKS to the national charity Speakers for Schools who gave us the opportunity to meet and talk to the Inspirational Susie McKenna. Thank you for reading this blog and remember to try new things even if it’s not in your comfort zone!
“You have your voices to say something. You are the future story-tellers.” – Susie McKenna.