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Memories of Merrigong – Pauline Doyle

Pauline Doyle, General Manager of Merrigong Theatre Company

From celebrities in her office doorway to seeing a real Australian story play out 30 years later on stage, it’s been an interesting career for Pauline Doyle.

“Everyone is involved, even if your role is not a creative role, you’re still part of the whole team. This is why, when the production goes on stage and I am watching it, I really do feel part of the team that’s brought that show to life.”

Reflect back to when you first started at Merrigong Theatre Company. Do you recall any fascinating tales about productions you’ve been involved in?

Merrigong has been a very exciting place to me from the beginning and even as Finance Manager I felt involved in the creative process.

The best part about our own productions is being involved right from the word go. Staff are invited to be part of read-throughs with performing artists and to see how the shows come together. I was amazed by the talent and it felt like I was part of a production meeting just like you see on a television sometimes.

Can you recall a time when a show did not go according to plan?

There is a touching personal story, not directly linked to a specific production, that I’d like to share of a young stage manager who I found sitting on the floor of the bathroom in tears as she was feeling overwhelmed and a little bit out of her depth.

We chatted for a while and then she realised if she took one step or task at a time she could do this. It all turned out well and she did a great job. She is still working in performing arts in our local creative community today.

Being included in the creative process, I felt like what I had to offer her was moral support. Everyone is involved, even if your role is not a creative role, you’re still part of the whole team.

This is why, when the production goes on stage and I am watching it, I really do feel part of the team that’s brought that show to life.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever witnessed or been a part of during a Merrigong Production?

The craziest and funniest production was a development showing of Greg Appel’s Van Park the Musical.

The delightful Anne-Louise Rentell, now Director of The Strangeways Ensemble, was playing the role of Panting Dog, a young hoodlum I think is how you would describe her character and she was very funny.

It was interesting to watch Anne-Louise perform because she is usually the director or producer and not on stage, so it was quite unusual for me to see her jump up there and be one of the cast and kill it, so to speak. She had all the staff watching in hysterics.

What is your fondest experience of a Merrigong production?

I’ve felt proud about lots of our shows but my fondest memory is watching Letters to Lindy by Alana Valentine for the first time.

Lindy Chamberlain was intimately involved with the production and shared the letters that people had written to her whilst she was in jail. A lot of the production was the actor Jeanette Cronin portraying Lindy on stage reading those letters and how that made her feel.  It was very beautifully done and very moving.

I remember reading Lindy’s book which I had bought as a Christmas present for my Mother-in-Law. I started to read it before I wrapped it up and then I had to get it back from her so that I could finish reading it. I was captivated by Lindy’s account so when I watched the stage production of her story 30 years later told through all those letters that she received I was gobsmacked. The number of letters that people wrote to her and the range of opinions that those letters put in front of her was heartbreaking and touching.

I think it stuck in my memory because it was a real-life story that was part of my history. Most people made up their mind one way or the other, guilty or not guilty. It was unfair the way she was treated for so long, so to see her, story told, in this very personal way was amazing.

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