Sunday, 25 August 2013

Mentors: With a little help from my friends

by Greg Bepper

Throughout my career I have been blessed with the generosity of my peers freely giving their advice, experience and know-how of this industry as well as their support.

As a young actor, veteran mentors that pass on their vast knowledge are an absolute gift. You can't buy this advice but if you could, it would be valued as priceless.

*See list of names at end of article
Although you will never stop learning and discovering new techniques, nuances and your capabilities, passing on this knowledge to the next generation of actors is not only essential but a your legacy.

So, for this article I have asked some of my peers to do just that. As you will see, their reminiscence of their mentors have had a lasting impact to this day. 

As for myself, I have already mentioned two from my early television career; John Hamblin and Willie Fennell in my blog article: The Director is God. But I need to go back a little further to my ATYP (Australian Theatre for Young People) days. 

My love of theatre and the art of acting was certainly strengthened by my tutors Chris HaywoodShane Porteous AKA John Hanlon, Christopher Pate, Ronne Arnold and Lawrence (Larry) Eastwood who at the time were all still NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) students. But the greatest influence was without a doubt, Artistic Director, Richard Wherrett AM.

Heading in the right direction
Richard instilled within me a direction of purpose for the craft. The capabilities the actor has, to not only entertain but to touch people's lives and perhaps change them. He also taught me the subtleties that can change an over-the-top performance to a real and believable one.

Ironically, armed with this burning desire for theatre and the expectation of thrilling audiences with characters to change their lives, my first professional job was in a different genre; as a host of a children's television show: Cartoon Corner with Greg.  A medium, that technically, I knew very little about and no character to hide behind. 

A very special mentor to this, then sixteen year old, that came to my rescue, was the shows' Producer, Jim Badger OAM.  Firstly I believe, if Jim had not cast me for the show, my 'big break' would have come many years later, if at all. It opened many 'career' doors. It gained my first agents, the wonderful Jean Cinis & Martin Bedford. Which then led to being 'in' the industry and followed the normal course of auditions and casting sessions.

Greg Bepper - Humphrey Bear - Marty & Emu
It was Jim's guidance that taught me on-camera techniques and how to 'play' an audience. He also gave me one very special attribute; the creation of magic and mystique when entertaining kids. No more so when it came to 'suited characters', for instance: Humphrey B Bear. Nothing makes me sigh more with despair than when I see a suit carried into a venue uncovered or standing in the wings, head under an arm revelling the actor inside.

"The magic vanishes" Jim would say, "You have killed the illusion and replaced it with reality. Every kid wants to believe in the magic. Don't take that way from them" Still to this day with all my productions, I do everything within my power to create the magic and preserve the mystique.

The more years you are in this industry, the more you come to respect the advice handed to you freely with no strings attached. Just one experienced peer keeping the art alive to another. 

For me, these include Australian industry icons, some of whom are sadly no longer with us: Leonard Teale, James Condon, Beryl Cheers, Gus Mecurio, Edward (Teddy) Howell and June Salter

But don't just take it from me...
Here, as I promised earlier and to highlight the importance of mentors in this industry are a few of my actor friends with the impact their mentors have had on their career. Please note that the list is in alphabetical order to avoid any controversy over the billing... I mean, you know how actors are! 

Don Bridges - Freida Hodgson
Don Bridges - Frieda Hodgson
I first worked with Don in the late 70's when we travelled to primary schools throughout north west New South Wales with a touring company for the Arts council of New South Wales, performing two plays: Clown & Drought.

Don to this day is still in constant demand as an actor, director and tutor. donbridges.com.au

"My most influential mentor was a woman named Freida Hodgson. She was a teacher/director I worked with in London in the early 70s. She was quite eccentric and in her 70s at the time. She had been teaching at LAMDA for 30 years. I was taken under her wing for weekly classes where she worked with me on monologues and scenes. She brought in people to watch me perform and they turned out to be examiners from LAMDA I became qualified, whatever that means. I had 10 or 12 monologues at my disposal once we finished. She inspired me and encouraged me to follow my dreams and aspirations. She was a very generous woman and also inspired me to "pass it on."

Alex Broun - George Ogilvie
Alex Broun - George Ogilvie
In 2010 I had the privilege of producing and directing one of Alex's plays PFV (Potential For Violence).
  
Alex, who is not only a playwright but also an actor and director has been associated with the Short & Sweet Festival for many years.

He is also extremely generous with his works, providing them royalty and copyright free through his website: alexbroun.com  

"George helped me to understand the true nature of the actor-director relationship. Why was this important through your career: In every play or film I have directed since I have always been conscious of empowering the actors and allowing them space to collaborate in creation of the finished work. I have always aimed to achieve George's goals of making the experience a positive one for the actors – mentally and spiritually."


Anna Hruby - Max Phipps
Anna Hruby - Max Phipps
I met Anna in 1979 when I was working with her brother Frank on a children's television show: Carrots.

Although I have never had the pleasure of working wit her, Anna is a delightful actress and everyone in Australia hears her voice everyday as she is now one of the most, constantly working and sort after female voice-over artist in the country.

"When I was 15 years old, I met and worked with the wonderful Max Phipps. It was his influence that sent me to study with Hayes Gordon and Zika Nesta at the Ensemble in the late 1970's. Max's dedication and love of performing has been a constant source of inspiration to me throughout my career. Such a committed actor and such a talented and charismatic one. I still miss him today."

Barbara Llewellyn
Barbara Llewellyn
The year was 1974. The show was Class of 74. Here I was working with Barbara, who although, was around the same age, was virtually a veteran within the industry at the time. She continued to grace the small screen for decades during which she met her then-to-be husband: Teen heartthrob (he's going to love me saying that.. but he was!) Rod Kirkham 

In 2004, Barbara, now also a published author, opened  Bright Light Multimedia with Rod. Publishing and promoting books, CD's and electronic downloads. They also collaborate in writing, arranging and producing some of Australia's most catchy jingles and promotional songs. 

"In all honesty, there was never any one person who I consider to have been my mentor or inspiration. I was literally raised “in the business” with my mother running the top theatrical agency of the time – my father, who was an actor, didn’t want to go to all the first nights of plays that my mother had to attend to nurture all her actors and actresses so she took me instead. I loved it. And basically, as we were seeing plays and talking to the actors backstage immediately after the show almost every week, I was in a constant state of training. Plus I started working professionally myself from the age of seven so, once again, always learning. I was basically a sponge, absorbing everything. The truth is that every teacher, every director, every actor/actress I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with has taught me something – and like most of the folk in our trade, there’s a part of me who observes everything and everyone, including myself when I experience some major emotion or event (you never know when you’ll be able to use it – that turn of the head, or glistening of the eyes or tightening of the chest). Life, itself, is my true mentor – don’t mean to sound esoteric, that’s just the way it is."

Denise Roberts - Hayes Gordon 
Denise Roberts - Hayes Gordon
I met Denise early in her career when I was teaching at a North Sydney Drama School in the 1980's. Denise has been a familiar face on Australian television since then in long running shows such as GP, Packed To The Rafters, Mrs Biggs,  Blood Brothers, Razzle Dazzle and Always Greener, just to name a few. 

These days, while still continuing her acting career, she is also the Principal & CEO of SCREENWISE Film & TV School for Actors 
 
"Hayes was a wonderful tutor and mentor.  Not only did he teach me tools that would define me as an actor, but they would define me as a person too. He instilled in me the importance of using my craft wisely. Theatre and Film he said was the most dangerous of all the arts because it can influence the way people think, it can manipulate the way they feel, it can make them a 'gentler giant'.  Theatre was a loaded gun and therefore use it with care.  Know what your are doing with it. Respect it and aim the gun carefully.   And this is what I too try to instil in my Screenwise students."

Joanne Samuel
Joanne Samuel
As with Barbara, I worked with Joanne on Class of 74. Joanne's career spans many decades and she has graced the small and large screen in productions such as: Mad Max with Mel Gibson, The Sullivans, Young Doctors, Hey Dad, The Wiggles Movie and All Saints.

These days Joanne is heavily involved with the fabulous Katoomba Theatre Co
   
"I have had many people inspire, teach and mentor me, in 41 years of working as a performer.  People like Queenie Ashton and June Salter when I did Certain Woman for the ABC and Bud Tingwell when I worked on Skyways. Starting to ponder this, I realised the greatest of all my teachers and mentors were three women. Two were my dance teachers, Elaine and Shirley Honeybrook, from Honeybrook Dance Studio. The other was my Aunty Ric, who studied at Trinity College in London, and is a fantastic voice teacher/director.  Elaine and Shirley taught with a loving firmness. I danced, sang and performed in an old hall, from age 5- 16 years, up a steep and very narrow stairway in Balmain. I never wanted to leave that studio. Aunty Ric made sure I read and saw as many plays as possible, especially Shakespeare, she encouraged in me, a love of the theatre and the discipline of the craft of acting. These three women took what talent I had, trained me up in technique and self discipline, to have the tenacity to stay the course and work hard. I still tap, sing and act today. My love of theatre, Shakespeare, and all things performing arts grows deeper the older I get."

With thanks
I can't thank my peers enough for their contribution to this article. Here's hoping our examples of the importance of listening to and taking in all that is said from mentors enriches the journey for young actors.


Author: Greg Bepper © 2013
Artistic Director
Greg Bepper's Thunderbolt Theatre & Film Productions
thunderbolttheatre.com
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85 comments:

  1. It makes me think of all of the awesome mentors that I've had.

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    1. Thanks Michael... Yep, They all start flooding back and you just feel so humbled that they they were there for you, cheers m8

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  2. An actor(anyone for that matter)and his journey, takes place with the help of so many people in the lime light, as well as in the back ground....People only remember the actors, and not their mentors.....it is like the Teacher who teaches his students, who later may become promoted to so many different cadre, but he remains in the same class waiting yet for another batch of students to teach them their way up....Thanks for this wonderful Blog!

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    1. Thank you so much for this great comment Ramesh... I couldn't agree more!

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  3. really really awesome wordings

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  4. "I do everything within my power to create the magic and preserve the mystic."

    Greg, even if that were the only thing you had learned, then you would deserve a huge pat on the back for achievement. Keep up the good work!

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    1. It's all in the magic Angus.. thanks for your kinds words, cheers

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  5. Inspirational article Greg. Some memorable actors here too! Well done mate.

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    1. Thank you Tom. Oh yeah... some of the Aussie greats, cheers m8y

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  6. Your generousity of spirit called these folks forward to walk with you on your journey. How blessed I am to have learned of their mentorship, friendship and love. How wondrous to learn from you. Thank you for sharing the love.

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    1. Thank you Mary... I feel them every day

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  7. What a wonderful tribute to your professional mentors, peers, and friends. So often we think of things people have done to help us along the way, but don't always take the time to acknowledge them. i know each of them (and their families and friends) will appreciate reading your words. Nice job!

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    1. Thank you Terri... Yep, it was recognition well overdue

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  8. Such a great tribute to the people who helped you and inspired you along your journey, Greg! Thanks for sharing with us!

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    1. Thanks so much for your support Yannis... they certainly are special people

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  9. Great post Greg. Far too often do we stop and look back and thank those who have helped us on the way

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  10. very impressive background Greg! Thanks for sharing ;-)

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  11. Wow, your generosity with this post is amazing. I know this one took some time to create so very awesome of you.

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    1. Thank you.. yep, this one was a bit of a mammoth, cheers

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  12. This is an amazing post that makes me think about the folks who have helped me. This week I am going to write some notes to some of my mentors to tell them thanks. Your lesson of gratitude is inspirational.

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    1. Thank you as always for your support Harold... that is a great idea. As I say in the article so many of them are no longer with us.. I wish I had acknowledged them before their passing

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  13. it's great to work with young people

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    1. You will get no argument from me on that... thank you, cheers

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  14. Very fine content and experiences. I have had similar assistance and gratification over the last 40 years from the mentoring venue.

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    1. That's excellent Ken.. Thanks for your support, cheers

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  15. Hi Greg great post - Mentors are so important when developing a career and when given the opportunity to give back we need to look to mentor others. Giving back to the industry that has given me so much is the best way for me o demonstrate my gratitude

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    1. Thanks dale... I'm so grateful I'm now in the position to pass on what was passed to me and to add my own experiences

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  16. Very good article. I use people who never know they are my mentor but by learning and following what they do, I can learn. I learned that from an old friend, Andy Andrews. When I write novels, I place real modern day actors in the roles to give them character so my stories become more believable.

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    1. Thank you... I do that all the time when I write. It's interesting, I saw an interview with a writer the other day (sorry I don't remember who at the moment) who never sees the character when they write.. I find that strange but horses for courses i guess, cheers

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  17. Love the energy and passion you put into your art. Always fun to explore all the work you've done and the great actors you've shared such experiences with.

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    1. Thank Chris... I love going back to go go forward, cheers

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  18. Great reminder of the importance of mentors, no matter what profession you have chosen

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  19. Greg, I'm really moved by the credit you give to others for your success. In this day of self-promotion & megalomania, it's refreshing to see someone who is grateful and humble. Nice tribute!

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    1. Thank you so much Kevin... I'm always grateful for those that have gone before and paved the way.

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  20. THX for sharing, Greg! It is allways important to have great people around you.

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    1. Thank Ruud... yep, great and generous, cheers

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  21. Very nice, thanks for sharing!

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  22. ver nice article - so many thanks for sharing. everybody needs mentors and at some point of time everybody should also become a mentor. it gives you a good feeling to help novices. i remember 3 ppl in my live having been very good mentors. 1 in business, 1 in coding and 1 in enterprise architecture

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    1. Thank you... Yep... Everybody! cheers

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  23. It reminds me to say thank you to some of the people who have helped me.
    I think I read somewhere the following: "If the student is ready the mentor will appear."

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  24. Very interesting article! Very valuable information. Everyone needs a good mentor

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    1. Thank you rick... yes they do! cheers

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  25. to be blessed with mentors is a gift that allows one to share with others later in life..thus, thank you Greg for sharing. nice article

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    1. Sure is Geoff. Thank you for your support, cheers

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  26. What a great example of what one attracts when they are following their passion!

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  27. All of the other comments have pretty much said it all. So I will comment on the fact that all of the young people involved with your project are observing something very powerful. People working hard, and together in harmony, focused on a common goal. Win loose or draw becomes insignificant as the example of what they experience in this will travel with them the rest of their lives. Giving them the tools to reach their individual dreams.

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  28. Great article, congratulation I like that.

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  29. Mentors are awesome. With so much diversity in acting, there is no limit to the kinds of mentors one can seek. Well done!

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  30. Replies
    1. Yep... 'a funny 'ol fella is Humphrey' :)

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  31. I love the blakc and white photographs, this is a really authentic post.

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    1. Thank you Tyler.. yep there is just something about B&W that demands attention, cheers

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  32. Whenever I mentor, I learn as much as I teach.

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  33. Very nice article, thanks for sharing!

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  34. Interesting, as it is hard to find a mentor and the right one... yeah, you know. :)

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  35. Awesome! @taxtreats #trainingfest

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  36. Sounds like you've had a great career Greg, what with travelling all over Australia, meeting and working with new and exciting people!

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  37. Hi Greg,

    This was an amazing read. I was so impressed by all the amazing things you've done and accomplished. It's an honor to know you. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

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    1. Thank you sooo much lovely Karen... it goes both ways! :)

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  38. I use people who never know they are my mentor but by learning and following what they do, my present boss is a great example.

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  39. Great article, and congratulations on your success. Everyone (especially young people) needs a mentor, and of course, if we can have different mentors guide us through different challenges/opportunities in our life, then that is indeed a blessing.

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  40. Great article!! but i wonder how to find a perfect mentor

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    1. Thanks Roger... they find you! :) cheers m8

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