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'Take a chance': Theatre veteran never expected to direct or act

Kay Valentine has now been involved in theatre for 40 years and is set to direct her third play with Newmarket Stage Company
2019 08 10 Housekeeper - promo
Director Kay Valentine (right) directs Lise Boily and Dave Sansom in rehearsals for the Newmarket Stage Company production of The Housekeeper. | Supplied photo/Peter Salt for Newmarket Stage Company

Getting into theatre was never Kay Valentine’s plan; it just sort of happened.

It started 40 years ago, when the Newmarket resident began volunteering at the Red Barn Theatre in Jackson’s Point, which was the oldest continuously operating professional summer theatre in Ontario until it closed in 2010.

Valentine ended up on the board of directors for the theatre and, to increase community engagement, the board opted to form a community theatre group for the winter. 

At the time, Valentine didn’t expect to get involved with how busy she was raising her children and teaching. 

“I had never been on a stage in my life,” she said. “They decided to do a play called Boeing-Boeing and a few weeks into it, they called me.”

One of the actors had fallen out and the theatre group was in desperate need of someone to step into the role.

“Unfortunately, the first time somebody laughed at me on stage I was hooked,” she said. “From then on, I acted.”

Since Valentine was a teacher, when the theatre company needed a director, it was a natural transition for her.

Eventually, she moved from the area to Newmarket, got involved with starting the Old Town Hall Players and performed in many plays as an actor. She was also involved in many more as a director.

Now involved with Newmarket Stage Company, she guesses she’s been involved with about 40 plays in her theatre career, and in a similar fashion to her initially not wanting to be on stage, she says she never wanted to be a director either.

“Since I was a teacher, I felt like I was already directing all day long,” she said. “I loved going to the theatre as an actor and being told what to do by somebody else.”

Valentine said what has really kept her involved as a director is her evolving love for theatre. She says her interest was peaked with directing and that while her true love is being on stage, she has found directing gives her more opportunity to stay involved in theatre as she gets older.

“As a director, I love the long process of taking a group of people who may not know each other, but you’ve chosen them because they fit the role,” she said. "I love watching them grow and develop into a finely polished performance at the end.” 

Valentine is set to add to her illustrious theatre career and is directing her third play for the Newmarket Stage Company, The Long Weekend, with performances running from Feb. 9 to 18 at Old Town Hall.

She was drawn to the play as a fan of Norm Foster, the Newmarket-born playwright, who is considered one of Canada’s most produced playwrights.

“I love the comedy, it’s gentle, but also very humanistic,” she said. “The things you’re laughing at are probably things you’ve experienced in your own life.”

While Valentine never dreamt of seeing herself on stage or in the directors chair, it’s where she’s found herself after all these years. 

She says for those who may be interested in theatre, but haven’t attempted to pursue it yet, the only way to do so is to push yourself to join a group.

Valentine, who is a big believer in promoting those who work backstage in theatre, says that you don’t even have to join with the idea that you’ll be on stage.

“Once you get in and watch the process, you might want to dip a toe in and take a short role,” she said. “Just dip your feet into the pool and take a chance. Without taking a chance, you never know what you can and cannot do.”

Learn more about Newmarket Stage Company’s upcoming performance of The Long Weekend here.