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Terenia Edwards

“Volunteering in refuges connected me back to why I do what I do”
Terenia Edwards
Terenia Edwards

While training, Terenia Edwards started feminist theatre group Bernhardt, which would host open mic and scratch nights. Now she has resurrected the group to run workshops for women who have experienced domestic violence or stayed in refuges. She tells Giverny Masso about a series of workshops she will be running with Bernhardt at Southwark Playhouse in London from September…

How did you get into theatre?
It started at school and with youth theatre. Deep down, I was a bit of a weird kid and I think that’s the kind of thing that unites all actors really. There’s a sense of feeling a bit different and you find your tribe in the creative corner. I got into it to make friends, joining the Young Theatre in Beaconsfield when I was 14. I trained at Central School of Speech and Drama, and that’s where Bernhardt started as the equivalent of a feminist society. The girls in my group were all quite dissatisfied with certain elements of how the course was run and there was an unhealthy gender divide at one point in our group.

What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career so far?
My biggest challenges are self-doubt and anxiety. I remember in my training people constantly reminding you “only 2% of actors out there are actually working”. It’s a constant battle, but I’ve actually found volunteering to be the biggest cure for that. When I started volunteering, it connected me back to why I do what I do in the first place. It reminded me about community and the significant way art can inspire and connect people really deeply. I think more actors should volunteer; there’s a huge group of people who are desperate to feel connected or creative or feel a stronger purpose.

What led to these workshops you’ll be running at Southwark Playhouse?
I started out doing a lot of practical volunteering. I would be tidying and helping out in the refuges. Then one of the support workers suggested that I run workshops. I went in using drama as a distraction, and it really bought home how important having a creative outlet is in recovery. We kept things very creative. It was never sit-down meetings or discussions, it would always be a build-up to an event and everyone would rehearse and share things. It would be poetry or music or scene reading or something. It became very clear, very quickly that these workshops I was doing were really just Bernhardt. So we’ve brought the group back.

What will the workshops involve?
The workshops will be free to women who have accessed emergency accommodation or are currently using it. As our participants may be in a position where their agency has been taken away, I think it’s really important that the work we look at is generated by them. However, I’ve prepared workshops where we look at different acting techniques or we’ll have a poetry and writing workshop. There are also loads of artists who are interested in collaborating with us. For people who participate in our workshops, we are also offering free theatre tickets. So we really are dedicated to getting everyone involved in the theatre scene a lot more. The group is named after [French actor] Sarah Bernhardt, who was revolutionary; she’s kind of our poster girl.

To participate/volunteer, email: bernhardt.org@gmail.com

CV Terenia Edwards

Training: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, BA (hons) Acting (2012-15)
First professional role: Baba in Hero’s Welcome, Stephen Joseph Theatre and UK tour (2015)
Agent: Kate Buckley at 42 Management

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