Before becoming the Head of Drama at Newington, Paul Eastway shared the stage with names from John Bell to Muhammad Ali. Below, we find out why he swapped being ‘big in Japan’ for the classroom.
How did you come to Drama teaching?
After leaving school I did a degree in Theatre Arts (Performance) at university and then spent several years working as an actor. Teaching had always been a passion and so when my wife and I started a family, it was the perfect opportunity to move into teaching full-time. I had always imagined that I would one day go back to acting, however, teaching has been such a rewarding and fulfilling career that I’m still here.
Tell us a little bit about life as an actor and director. What was the craziest part? (Feel free to name drop)
Having a career in the performing arts is incredibly rewarding but it does require a great deal of flexibility. One day you’ll find yourself sword-fighting with John Bell in Richard 3 and the next day you are shooting a MasterCard commercial with the golfer, Adam Scott. I was fortunate that at university we were taught all aspects of production so that early on in my career I was able to create a lot of my own work rather than waiting for the agent to call. When I first left university, I started a performance company with a friend, designing acts for corporate events and festivals. That was a great way to pay the bills while auditioning for shows and also meant I got to practise my craft regularly.
Have you ever worked overseas? If so, what was your experience?
For many years I was a member of the performance group, Chrome. We toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia and North America. The Japanese, in particular, loved our style of performance and we were regularly hired to perform in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. We also spend many summers in Europe and North America performing at festivals such as the Montreal Comedy Festival, Glastonbury, Lowlands Festival and the Galway Arts Festival. The experiences we had were so rich and diverse; from being on Canadian television with Suzanne Vega to sharing a stage with Muhammad Ali. The last time I performed overseas was when the Bell Shakespeare Company toured Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to England. Talk about taking coals to Newcastle.
As a young person interested in Drama, who were your idols growing up?
There were many actors whose work I remember vividly. My mother loved the cinema and so I grew up watching a lot of early Hollywood films. In particular I remember being drawn to the work of Bette Davis, Vivian Leigh, Danny Kaye and of course, Marlon Brando. As a young actor I was most probably most influenced by the work of Daniel Day-Lewis.
What do you love about teaching Drama?
Everything. Watching students grow in confidence and find their own voice is one of the most rewarding aspects. Also being inspired on a daily basis by the creativity of young people. Their imagination combined with their fearlessness is such a powerful force. I love watching the boys work together to solve problems creatively; listening to each other’s suggestions and testing out ideas. If there was ever a subject to prepare students for the workplace of the 21st century, it’s Drama.
What’s your favourite movie or play?
Any play that has come out of Ireland in the past twenty-five years. Their plays are poetic, terrifying and hilarious all at the same time. Then there are masterpieces like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. But I think Hamlet is still the one. In terms of movies, it’s impossible to have a favourite. The Conversation, The Godfather, Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…where do you start?
What’s something they don’t warn you about teaching?
The amount of email you’ll receive.
You worked in the Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company – what was most interesting about performing Shakespeare?
There is so much going on when you perform Shakespeare. The ideas are enormous, the passions are extreme and the poetry is breathtaking. As an actor you simply get swept up in the momentum of the play and go along for the ride. The most extraordinary thing about Shakespeare’s work though is its timelessness. You could set Richard 3 or Romeo and Juliet in 1500, 1950 or 2021 and they would still work. There are not too many works that can claim to do the same.
What do you love about teaching at Newington?
The passion and dedication of the staff is inspiring. I’ve only been here a short time, but it’s clear how committed to the students the teachers are, both academically and pastorally.
When it comes to television and film, do you have any guilty pleasures?
Ha! On a flight home from the United States a few years ago I found myself comfort-bingeing films from my childhood such as The Breakfast Club. It’s the cinematic equivalent of dancing to 80’s pop.
Do you have a dream role that you’ve always wanted to be cast as?
The older you get the more limited the options become. It’s a worry when you start thinking about how you would go about playing King Lear.
And finally, what advice would you give to our students wanting to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Go for it! Be patient – it rarely happens overnight. Never turn up to an audition without having done everything you possibly can to prepare. Ask lots of questions and seek out as many opportunities as you can to practise your craft. Find like-minded people and create opportunities to work together. And finally, as Stanislavsky said, “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art”.