Fay Walters is an icon of the Wagga performing arts scene and a life member of The School of Arts Community Theatre (SoACT).
After almost two decades coordinating promotions and marketing (among other roles) and taking an active role in annual productions and showcases, she has decided to take a step back.
Fay and SoACT president Bob Hitchens resigned from their official roles last month but the former vice-president said that she would remain involved.
“I’m a life member and I became a member at 16, so it’s going to be 67 years next year,” she said with a laugh.
“Bob has stepped down as president, but he’s left it in a really wonderful and healthy situation, and while he’s stepping away from the role, he’s not stepped away from the school either.”
While Fay is excited about SoACT’s future and supportive of acting president Craig Dixon, she’s also looking forward to fewer deadlines.
“I just thought, do I want my life dedicated to timelines and I decided, no, not anymore,” she shrugged, adding a warning about using the ‘R’ word.
“I don’t ever plan to ‘retire’ because I think that’s a useless word that should itself be retired, but I guess I can think to myself every day, the day is mine,” the 83-year-old said.
“You can still be an active member, but one that can pick up their ball and go home and not have to clean the toilets and do the vacuuming before you do!”
It was back in the 1950s that Fay first got a taste of what SoACT had to offer.
“My family was very much into the arts,” she said.
“My dad loved acting and my aunt Phoebe was the secretary at some stage. My sister joined as soon as she got to be 16 and so when my turn came, I just automatically did it.
“I was still at school, so I didn’t get the roles that my friends did at that stage, but we performed in St Andrews Hall or the Wesley Hall until we moved into the Civic Theatre in 1963.”
Fay became increasingly involved in community theatre over the years and made the most of the development opportunities on offer.
“They’d send you off to a summer school in Sydney so you could learn how to do things properly and that’s what got me into the directing,” she said.
“I love the directing and I love the creativity related to that and the opportunity to just work with your actors and develop the play into what everyone believes is the way to go.”
When asked to nominate a favourite production, Fay reflected that each show brought its own unique set of challenges and joys.
“I directed Shirley Valentine, which is a one-woman show in which Jo Darby played the lead, and because it’s a full-length play with only one person, it was very challenging for Jo who was absolutely amazing!” she said.
“I love Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and I loved doing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and two Miller plays. Guys and Dolls is my favorite musical, but there are just so many different things that I love passionately.”
Fay said that returning to the main stage at the Civic Theatre this year with the Gilbert and Sullivan classic Pirates of Penzance was also a career highlight.
“That is the most exciting thing that’s happened in the last 20-plus years, and it was almost like coming full circle,” she said.
“I was there when it opened in ’63 and again when it came back for the 60th anniversary in 2023; it was an absolute dream come true for me.”
As SoACT approaches 165 years, Fay hopes that Wagga never takes the gift of community theatre for granted.
“I have just been blessed to belong to this organisation and to have had a lifetime of using my creative energies and expanding on them and learning,” she said.
“I think that everybody should consider how important community theatre is, and be part of the community theatre family.
“I have had a lifetime of absolute joy.”