HEADLINE: THELMA RUBY HAS BEEN A WEST END GREAT. NOW SHE'S GOING BACK TO HER LEEDS ROOTS FOR A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE.
Thelma Ruby insists she would never have become an actress f it had not been for the Second World War. Her mother was an accomplished music hall singer--but as a child, the Leeds girl was more interested in being a writer. Now, however, at 82, the veteran performer of screen and stage can list working with Judi Dench in the West End debut of CABARET and with Topol in the theatre production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF as career highlights.
After Ruby was evacuated to America during the war, she got a scholarship to Finch College in New York to study acting, and wound up in ENSA, entertaining British troops. She attributes her performing skills to her mother. "My mother was a child performer, billed as DAINTY LITTLE PAULA RUBY---A REAL JUVENILE STAR. She was beautiful and had a glorious lyric soprano singing voice. At first I was in plays but I wouldn't sing because I didn't want to be compared with my mother. But I met a singing coach, Betty Alvarez, at a party and she encouraged me to sing. It was only when I went into musicals that my career took off." After her first musical job as Principal Boy in Pantomime in Hull, she went into the Coronation Year revue at the Hippodrome Theatre called HIGH SPIRITS with Cyril Richards, Diana Churchill and Ian Carmichael. "Possibly the highlight of my career was a 2-year run at the Apollo Theatre in a revue called FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY. Only Ron Moody and I never missed a performance" says Ruby proudly. "It was a wonderful experience." This could be because during that time she had a romance with Hollywood star Tyrone Power!
EXTRA! EXTRA! January 2008 Barry Grantham
Barry: Miss Ruby, before putting my first question to you, let me congratulate you on your show THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT. Watching you perform the other night, it was very apparent that in addition to your natural born talent, you are highly skilled in your delivery; in the clarity of your diction, in your well modulated voice and in the precision of your movement. How much of this did you gain from formal training, and how much from the experience of working with other good performers?
Thelma: I couldn't say exactly how much of what I do was from formal training and how much from experience. My formal training at Finch College in New York was marvellous. I still remember what I learned there, and I use that knowledge all the time. It is the basis of every performance. But I have learned from every show I have done. I regret that in my young days there was no Actors Centre, to continue learning after leaving Drama School, and I wish I had known my husband Peter Frye earlier in my life, because I learned SO much from him. He was such a gifted teacher and director. I believe I would have had an even better career and been a better actress if I had known him when I was young.
Barry: Of the people you have worked with, whom did you find particularly inspiring?
Thelma: I was inspired by so many actors, I find it hard to name them. But my very first appearance on a stage was with Evelyn Laye in the musical THE THREE WALTZES. I had one line: "Mrs Evans, Mrs Evans come quick! Katie's doing an encore. The King stood up and clapped!!!" I learned a lot from watching her, and she taught me some basic stagecraft, like how to handle a train when wearing Edwardian costume. Maybe it was not a good idea to copy how she made her first entrance---she stepped right out of character and dropped a deep curtsey to the audience to acknowledge her entrance round of applause!!
Barry: Do you feel that these skills, once part and parcel of every actor's equipment, are now vanishing in this TV soap-opera dominated world?
Thelma: I am saddened that TV soap-opera stars are often sent out as the stars of a tour to bring in an audience, when many of them are not theatre trained. But, generally speaking, I think our current stage actors are better trained than in my young day. Peter used to compare English and American acting by saying that English acting was "all manner and no matter", meaning that their skill was in movement and diction rather than the American style of digging deep into the emotions and the heart and inner life of the character. But that is no longer true. I think the standard of acting in England now is superb.
Barry: You refer to yourself as an "Actress". To me the term brings to mind those great performers of our theatre heritage: Mrs Siddons, Fanny Kemble, Sarah Bernhardt, Ellen Terry, Kitty Clive, and of more recent times, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft and Vivien Leigh. Most women in the profession now insist that they are "Actors"--not "Actresses"--are you content to remain an "Actress"?
Thelma: I am an ACTRESS, an ACTRESS, An ACTRESS. .I don't like the present habit of calling us all actors. I know you don't say Doctor and Doctress! But I love being an actress. I enjoy being a girl!!
Barry: When you were a leading lady, what did you wear for rehearsal? Today the leading lady may well turn up in torn jeans and a T-shirt.
Thelma: Oh, this is a lovely question. When I was a leading lady, I always turned up for the first rehearsal dressed to the nines and wearing a hat!! I felt it gave me a certain cache!
Barry: How much has your acting partner influenced your own performance? You played "Golde" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF with more than one actor. Did this change your performance?
Thelma: I played "Golde" in FIDDLER five times, but with just 2 partners, Lex Goudsmit and Topol. Of course, the more empathy you have with a partner, the better you feel your performance to be But I liked them both and I enjoy and admire most of the actors and actresses I work with, so the change between one partner and another is minimal.
Barry: Thank you for answering my questions. I and all at Extra! Extra! give you our best wishes for your continued success and creativity. May I conclude with the final word from your show, SHALOM!
Thelma: It has been fun...thank you for all the nice things you say and for the interesting questions. To you too, Barry, I say SHALOM!