People of Hamilton had the incredible opportunity to sit down and chat with Theresa Noon-Hunter, a Hamilton-native, producer, actor, and filmmaker. She spoke about what got her interested in the business and why she started her own production company, There’s a Production.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Hamilton. I grew up here, I moved to Toronto when I was 19-years-old and I lived there for about five years and then I have lived in Kitchener, Waterloo, I’ve lived all over the States. I lived in Los Angeles for a couple years, it was surreal. I was very lucky because I was there on a contract so I was given a condo and a car, and I had a set acting gig there.
How did you initially get started in theatre?
Before I was eight years old, I started in the arts with dance and then I got really into sports. At the age of eight, my father was a vice principal at a high school and they were doing a production of Oliver and they needed little kids. They asked all the faculty if they could bring in kids, and everybody did and then they still needed some boys. So, they asked my dad and my dad came home and asked my brother if he wanted to be in the production. He said yes, and I said if he’s doing it I want to do it too. My dad went back and said to the directors I’ve got a boy and a girl for you, and they said we just need the boy we don’t need the girl. My dad was like, I’m your boss I’ve got a boy and a girl for you. So, they took me and it was love ever since.
I was bit by the bug and I was bit hard. I never cared about anything career wise, other than being an actor or director. I think of myself as more of a creator, because that’s my favourite part about doing theatre or film, is creating it.
Did you go to post-secondary?
I did go to university, I went to theatre school. I learned a lot but you don’t have to go to theatre school in order to do it as a career. I think the biggest thing I got out of going was that I learned different ways to hone my craft. My parents were like, ‘you should go into post-secondary education because you should have a backup’. I’m not going to do anything else, like I’m literally only going to do this and I said fine, if I have to go to post-secondary I’m going to go to theatre school and I decided to go just for an acting program as opposed to musical theatre. I decided I would study music and study dance as well as being in training. York offered a program that was called The Creative Ensemble, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was for actors, directors, and creators. So, we got to write, create, act, direct our own piece so that was the best training I could have had because I learned all of the other aspects of the theatre. I learned about costuming, I learned about lighting and carpentry, and I made a lot of connections. Because I was in university, I made friends with the film students, and I got two feature films just by fraternizing and so the social aspects of it were amazing. Did I need it for my career? Probably not, scholastically, but I was one of four that graduated and I was one of two with honours in my year, so I’m pretty proud of that.
What happened after York?
Because I got two feature films while I was still in school, I was working professionally as an actor doing musicals at the same time. I was using my summers to work in theatre, as well as during school. It was an extremely demanding program so I didn’t have a ton of time to do it, but when I could I did. I went out and I got an agent, and I just started working commercially. I was working for other people doing their musicals, their plays, their films, commercials, television shows.”
At what point did you start There’s A Production?
That’s the real turning point I think because I knew what I wanted to do my whole life. It was when I became, not tired of doing other people’s stuff, but I wanted to do my own stuff. In 2012 I finally just did it. I decided to form my own company and I wanted to produce my own things. I wanted to create my own pieces, and my company’s mandate is to do original Canadian material. I get playwrights to submit me their plays. Exceptions to the rules are, if people want a specific event, they say ‘Can you do a Disney concert? We want to bring in kids and parents’ then that’s cool, I’ll totally do that, there are Canadians involved in Disney. But, when I’m producing original stuff, it’s Canadian material and that was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. It has been beautifully challenging, a challenge that I embrace.
It’s the best job in the whole world. I get to wake up every morning and do what I love. I don’t dread going into work, that’s all I want to do. A big part of my job is just thinking and creating, and that’s super cool.
What have been some of the productions you’ve put on so far?
The inaugural production of There’s A Production was called An Evening of Canadian Music and Theatre, written by Canadian playwright Allison McWood and it’s a play about Canadian theatre. So, it’s an absolute scream, it’s so funny and I paired it with this very Canadian band called Steve Parkinson and The Stony Lonesome and I said do all original material but they also covered the theme song for the Littlest Hobo from CBC. And then I produced Book Club, I’ve done ten different murder mystery scripts multiple times each, I’ve done various concerts, the list goes on. I’m currently working on my documentary which is called And I Survived, I’ve been working on it for the past two years. It’s about women who have survived abuse, and I’ve interviewed 18 survivors and ten professionals for the film. I’m extremely proud of it, it’s in editing right now.
Film or live performance?
I’m going to go with live performance, but I loved making this documentary. I prefer as an actor, always live performance and as a creator, I have to go with theatre. I still loved making my documentary, it’s something I’m giving my whole self to but it’s a very different process.
What would you say is the hardest part of putting together a live performance?
Everything has its own challenges. Casting is challenging, especially when you see a lot of great talent and having to not cast someone. It’s a lot of work to promote and to do marketing for a show, that is probably my least favourite part. Sometimes I am on a quest to find props that are really difficult to find so that’s a challenge on its own but it’s nothing that would cause me to give up. Because I own my own company, I’m the little company that could, I do a lot of it myself. So, I source all the props, my husband and I build set pieces. I have to be really good at managing my time, and if anybody wanted to go into this field, time management is critical.
Besides the documentary, what is next for you?
I am creating a brand-new murder-mystery which is a 1980s prom. I’m super excited about that because 1980s is my jam. Next week, I’m doing Golden is the New Orange in Kitchener, which is a murder-mystery. It’s Golden Girls mashed with Orange is the new Black. That one is a really big show for me because I play four characters in it, so I’m four characters plus the director, plus the producer, plus the marketing, costuming, props, etc.