All the world may be a stage, but Suzanne Hudson-Smith has realized her dream role as executive director at a First Coast community theater where she encourages players to bloom in their craft and shares her love of theater and the magic it creates.
What can you share about your background?
I grew up in a small town in Northeast Texas. School was fun. I performed in talent shows in elementary school — ever singing, pantomime and just silly stuff. I was senior class president, National Honor Society president and graduated ninth in my class of 350 — so I did OK for a theater-minded student.
Have you always loved theater?
I committed to majoring in theater when I was in seventh grade, so I took all that silly and focused it on theater. I didn't really know what that meant at the time, but I knew I was good at it (remember, small town). The summer before my senior year I went to a theater workshop at Southwest Texas State in San Marcos, Texas … and I was hooked. I saw the school, met talented like-minded actors, did a little Moliere and I was sold on theater. My parents were not, so I do have a minor in journalism (she said smiling).
Did you aspire to be an actor?
Yes, I aspired — and through my four years of BFA Acting, that was what I was training for. So when I stepped off the stage with my diploma, I got on a plane and flew to my first audition at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia to be a part of their equity training program. Hundreds auditioned — and I got in... as a character actress.
I chose not to stay in the equity program because it was too limiting, so I went back to Dallas, worked in corporate America while performing, directing and opening theaters in my spare time.
What was your first paid role?
I was in the one-woman show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” in Sarasota.
What made you come back to community theater?
Community Theater is where it all starts — you get a chance to be in a show, you make friends, you grow as an actor, you learn hands-on about everything! It's the spirit and the passion of theater. Community Theater is where the heart of theater is. It is where people come together simply for the love of the art and performing.
Tell us about your role and Players by the Sea.
As Executive Director of Players by the Sea, my role is to work with the Board of Directors, focusing us all on connecting our theater to the community so we can provide resources that will allow us to continue to teach and train the next generation of creative talent — young, old, new to theater, experienced — we can all come together at Players by the Sea to create theater magic while being the mentors to the younger artists.
What drives you to take players to the next level?
There is so much potential for a theater facility that has two stages and a beautiful gallery reception space. We are reigniting our education program for middle and high school. Seeing the high school students take on their own theater projects as part of the Young Creative Artists series is all the drive it takes to know we're doing the right programs for the right reasons.
Do you have a hobby or passion outside the theater?
My partner and I love to travel, explore new places and hang out with our friends. I have a motorcycle that I just don't get out on enough!
What is your favorite part about living on the First Coast?
The First Coast area is so easy to explore, with so much to do. It's a rich life when you have a beach, a coast and theater all over the area to enjoy!