A working actor's dreams come true
Bernadette Nason is a familiar presence in Central Texas theatre, and even if you don't know her, your children likely do, as she's been appearing regularly as a storyteller at local elementary and middle schools for the last six years. That ongoing gig allows this flame-haired Englishwoman to be one of a handful of folks in the area who can honestly say that their day job is acting, and that alone makes her very special. About 14 years ago, Nason quit her corporate job in her native country, sold most everything she owned, and came to the States to pursue her dream of becoming a working actor. On the suggestion of a friend, she passed through Austin on her way to L.A., and once she'd visited that artistic snake pit on the West Coast, she came back here to stay.
Throughout July you can see this very special performer flying solo in a more adult project: Shirley Valentine, Willy Russell's charming comedy of a woman's rebirth in middle age, produced by Onstage Theatre Company and directed by company artistic director Michael Stuart. Like Nason, this production is special, as it marks the 10th anniversary of both the company, and Stuart and Nason's artistic relationship. "Back in 1996, Michael and I had been talking about doing Willy Russell's Educating Rita for about a year," says Nason. "And the more we talked about it, the more we realized it was something we really wanted to do. The only theatre we could get for the dates we had chosen was the State Theatre, which was just about to be renovated. I think we were the last show in it before the renovation. And once we'd committed, with limited time on our hands to get the production up, Michael realized he'd rather have someone else direct him, and Ken Webster stepped up and took on the directorial role.
"We formed Onstage because we wanted to have a company that would do some of the old chestnuts, some of the vintage plays that maybe people weren't doing anymore. Austin is one of these vibrant places where there are lots of new theatres doing new productions and writing new plays, which is fantastic, but we wanted something where we could do some of the modern classics."
Since that first one 10 years ago, Nason has joined Onstage for revivals of Arsenic and Old Lace, Blithe Spirit, and Harvey, to name a few modern classics every one. In other words, theirs is a long and fruitful relationship. "When we were doing Educating Rita, we talked about doing Shirley Valentine sometime later when I was a little bit older. And I said, 'One day Michael, you will direct me in this play,' and he said, 'Sure, I'd love to.' I guess we started talking about it again a year ago. And here we are."
Shirley Valentine runs July 7-30, Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm, at Austin Playhouse, 3601 S. Congress. For more information, call 454-4925 or visit www.onstagetheatreco.org.