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Q&A/What to SEE/Theatre

What to SEE: The Glass Menagerie

18 July 2022

Northam born-and-bred actor Jake Fryer-Hornsby has been lured back to WA to perform in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of the Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie. But it’s not the first time he’s been drawn home by theatre. Nina Levy finds out more.

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Since graduating from WAAPA in 2017, Jake Fryer-Hornsby has performed around the country and now he’s back in WA to perform the role of Jim Connor in The Glass Menagerie, at His Majesty’s Theatre this August.

In between rehearsals the upcoming young actor made time for a Seesaw Mag Q&A.

Nina Levy: What was your childhood like? What were your childhood interests?

A young man with red hair sits for a portrait photo.
Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby: I grew up in the Wheatbelt, in Northam on Ballardong Country. I had a great childhood that was filled with a lot of adventure. I was somewhere in the middle of a Brady Bunch of sorts, of five boys and two girls. There wasn’t always much to do out there; we had to make our own fun and so I got to experience a lot of different things and it was certainly never boring.

I think without realising it I was always drawn to creative things. I liked drama at school, I loved playing music and singing, and I loved working with my hands to make things, or to pull things apart.

NL: You moved to Florida as a teenager – was that with your family or an independent move? What impact did your time in America have on your career aspirations?

JFH: I did make the move myself but I was going there to live with my dad. He’d been posted there after having lived in Sydney for most of my life. It had a huge impact on my career aspirations in the sense that the US was where I discovered you could even be an actor, and that I had an aptitude for it, thanks to one incredible tutor. I fell madly in love with all things acting and just never stopped.

NL: But you came back to WA, to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), to train – what made you choose to come back to Australia, and specifically to WAAPA, rather than pursuing a career in acting in the US?

JFH: There were a number of factors that went into me coming home but primarily it was to be closer to family. Even when I was in the States I’d had an interest in WAAPA. I knew if I was going to train that I wanted it to be in a conservatoire-style school and those were surprisingly hard to find in the US. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to return to the States to work someday but I’m happy to have started my career on home soil.

NL: After graduating you worked with Bell Shakespeare’s Players company, taking Shakespeare to schools and communities around Australia… what drew you to this gig?

JFH: When I first got the audition I was really excited by it. I’d always wanted to tour, I loved performing Shakespeare and I’d always cared a great deal about the positive impact of arts in education. To be honest, I never actually thought I would get to do it, and the next thing I knew I was on the road for two years.

NL: It sounds like a pretty cool job, but also a very demanding one – touring brings its own challenges, but touring to young audiences adds another layer. What did you learn from your time with the Players?

JFH: I learnt what it takes to be a team player, what it takes to lead, and when to do either respectively. When it comes to the acting the most important thing I learnt is just how few bells and whistles you need to tell a story.

NL: And what were some of the most memorable moments?

JFH: One of the highlights for me was a conversation I had with a young guy in central Queensland who didn’t feel like he could pursue a career in the arts because of where he came from. I had a chat with him after the show and by the end of the day he’d decided that it was something he was willing to try.

That and the time my water pipes froze in Bright, Victoria.

Three actors rehearsing The Glass Menagerie.
Jake Fryer-Hornsby (left) with fellow cast members Joel Jackson and Acacia Daken, rehearsing ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Photo: Dana Weeks

NL: And now you’re back in WA for Black Swan’s production of The Glass Menagerie, playing Jim O’Connor. What are you looking forward to when it comes to tackling this role?

JFH: The most exciting thing for me is getting to work on this play in any sense. I think I’d be happy playing one of the glass animals.

I’m really hoping to bring a lot of myself to this role, hoping to bring as much truth and authenticity as possible in a more modern context.

One of the most exciting things about it is the people I get to work with. There’s a brilliant team bringing this play to life and I can’t wait for people to see it.

NL: And what appeals to you about The Glass Menagerie? Why do you think it continues to be relevant to contemporary audiences?

JFH: Ever since I started acting I’ve always adored Williams’s plays and I’m incredibly excited to get to bring a little of myself to this role and canon, and about what this incredible cast and creative team are bringing to this play.

I think at its core this play’s themes are always relevant. We’ve all had to fight for and with the people that we love. We’ve all experienced loss and heartache, and I think most people are always going to long for more in their lives. Given the past few months in particular, where we find ourselves both socially and politically, I think that this play is going to strike a chord with a lot of people.

You can catch Jake Fryer-Hornsby in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of The Glass Menagerie at His Majesty’s Theatre, 2-21 August 2022.

Pictured top are ‘The Glass Menagerie’ cast members (L-R) Tom O’Halloran, Joel Jackson, Acacia Daken, Jake Fryer-Hornsby and Mandy McElhinney. Photo: Dana Weeks

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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