Celebrating World Theatre Day 27 March 2024

Interior of an old theatre auditorium viewed from the stage

Keith Winestein tells us about his personal lifelong love affair with the stage

Hello fellow theatre enthusiasts, drama lovers, and stage aficionados! As we raise the curtains on another glorious World Theatre Day, I can't help but feel the excitement bubbling up inside.

This is our day, a day dedicated to honouring the magic, the sweat, the tears, and the sheer brilliance that brings stories to life on stage. And it has been around for as long as me!

As an alumnus of both the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and the Royal Central Drama School, my journey through the world of theatre has been nothing short of extraordinary. From the exhilarating highs of opening night to the quiet moments of reflection backstage, every step has been a testament to the transformative power of the stage.

But my theatrical journey from childhood playing Joseph in the nativity play at primary school, to teenage years at Arts school introducing me to Shakespeare, with a few musicals with Leeds Youth Players along the way only ignited the lust for theatre which never dimmed.

While working at Coin Street, I decided to embark on a new adventure and pursue a BA Honours in Theatre from the University of Surrey and Guildford School of Acting. At the age of 22, fresh out of drama school, I never imagined that I would find myself back in the classroom four decades later at the age of 59. Yet, there I was, balancing full-time work with a rigorous academic schedule, determined to follow my passion for the stage.

It wasn't easy. Juggling assignments, and the demands of my full-time work at Coin Street pushed me to my limits studying – no free weekends for eight months! But with perseverance and sheer determination, I made it through. I'll never forget the feeling of walking across the stage at Guildford Cathedral to receive my degree at the age of 60, a testament to the power of lifelong learning and the enduring magic of theatre.

Established in 1962 (the year of my birth) by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), World Theatre Day serves as a global celebration of the transformative power of theatre. It's a day to acknowledge the countless hours of dedication put in by actors, directors, set designers, costume makers, and everyone else involved in bringing stories to life on stage.

In 2022, World Theatre Day marked its 60th anniversary with a spectacular online celebration. Hosted by the legendary Opera, Theatre, and Festival Director, Peter Sellers, the event showcased performances from emerging artists across 37 countries. It was a testament to the universality of theatre and its ability to transcend borders and cultures.

So, how can you join in on the festivities? I have a few suggestions up my sleeve:

1. Catch a Show (or Two!)

What better way to celebrate than by indulging in some live theatre? Whether it's a comedy, a tragedy, or a toe-tapping musical extravaganza, there's something for everyone. And hey, why stop at one show? Treat yourself to a season ticket and make a night of it! Coin Street is in a cultural quarter of London, teeming with venues such as the National Theatre, Young Vic, Old Vic, Shakespeare's Globe, with fringe theatres and the West End, all within walking distance.

2. Get Involved

Feeling the urge to tread the boards yourself? Local theatres are always on the lookout for volunteers, whether you're a seasoned performer or a backstage wizard. Trust me, there's nothing quite like the rush of being part of a live production. I have done amazing evening courses at City Lit which include radio presentation, podcasting, drama therapy, playwriting and directing actors.

3. Tune In to the World Theatre Day Message

Every year, the International Theatre Institute delivers a message of solidarity and inspiration to theatre lovers around the globe. It's like a pep talk for the soul, reminding us of the power of storytelling and the importance of fostering a culture of peace through theatre. This year it’s from Jon Fosse, a Norwegian writer and playwright

4. Spread the Word

Last but not least, let's spread the word about the importance of theatre in our communities. From promoting social dialogue to fostering literacy and education, theatre has the power to change lives (it changed mine) and bring people together. So let's raise our voices and shine a spotlight on the magic of the stage!

As we celebrate World Theatre Day, let's take a moment to applaud the unsung heroes behind the scenes, the dreamers who dare to imagine worlds beyond our own, and the audiences who make it all possible. Here's to the magic of theatre – may it continue to inspire, entertain, and unite us for years to come.

Break a leg, my fellow theatre buffs, and let the show begin!