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Canberra Today 3°/9° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

If she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere

Romy Turner… “It’s absolutely worth being able to tell my mum that I’m in a New York show.”

Making it on to the Great White Way is not as easy as fiction would have it, but a former Canberra performer is giving it her best shot.

Romy Turner, largely raised in Murrumbateman and the winner in 2014 of a CAT award for playing Lady Bracknell in the Girls’ Grammar production of The Importance of Being Earnest, is fighting the odds on Off-Broadway but starting to get featured roles. 

In the Theatre for the New City recently, for instance, she played The Monster in William Electric Black’s show The Frankenstein Project and before that she understudied in The Duchess of Les: An AI Musical from Little Ukraine.

Turner is a good example of a hard-working actor who’s doing everything to make things happen for her. 

Although she has a degree from the Australian Institute of Music, things didn’t really start jumping until covid. 

When I catch up with Turner by WhatsApp to New York, she’s full of beans, describing to me her upbringing in Murrumbateman, her time at Girls’ Grammar and her good luck after year 12 in getting into the AIM course where she did workshops with American songwriter John Bucchino, singing his notoriously difficult song, The Artist at 40.

After heading for England to ”grow up”, she got into Canberra shows such as Dramatic Productions’ The Producers and The Who’s Tommy with Canberra Philharmonic, which, thanks to the bushfires, saw only an in-house presentation for family and friends – but at least she got to sing her big number, Smash the Mirror.

Heading for Sydney, she got a job working on Sydney Harbour’s Bridgeclimb. Covid struck, but armed with JobKeeper, she found acting courses online with the famous Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, then applied to them, writing “the corniest application saying I’m a small-time girl aiming for big things”.

It worked. Three weeks into lockdown, she was offered a full scholarship that the Strasberg Institute held for her until lockdown was lifted in August 2022.

“If it’s all too hard, I’m coming home,” she told herself, but once in NYC from September 2022 she leapt into the intensive work at Strasberg with relish. 

Apart from its trademark courses in Method acting (the late Strasberg had been the mentor of Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando) there were the professionals engaged as acting coaches, her favourite being nonagenarian Geoffrey Horne, who’d been in The Bridge on The River Kwai.

Even now, Turner says: “Here I am, a little bumpkin from Murrumbateman… what is happening?

The course brought strong industry connections.

“You have to work hard to build a good reputation, this industry here is all about networking,” she says. 

Graduates like her have 12 months to convince the US government that they are of exceptional talent by getting as much work as possible, so she’s been hitting the audition and casting website rounds, enjoying the role of John Wilkes Booth in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and appearing in short films and ​​shows.

“Then I got a comedy sketch at The Producers Club and suddenly I was working on two other projects – the Duchess of Les as a standby and also The Frankenstein Project… this is the level of intensity that you find here,” she says.

“Frankenstein was very different, because I was offered the principal role on my own, and it was because of networking,” she says. 

“It was very experimental, very downtown New York in that the set and costuming for the cast were all very minimal and the creative team really relied on props, lighting and the actors’ physicality to create the different environments in each scene,” she says. 

By doing those two shows, Turner is now eligible to join Actors Equity, necessary if she wants to be considered for national tours. 

She hopes she will be eligible in August to apply for an O-Visa for three years, which is how many Home and Away and Neighbours actors get into the US.

“I went having no idea what it was going to be like… it was hard with no family and friends at first, but it’s absolutely worth being able to tell my mum that I’m in a New York show,” she says. 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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