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RENA RICE (d.1999)

The first t I met Rena Rice she was the Theatre Manager at The Questors Theatre. She sat in her little office in the old tin hut which was the theatre in those days (this was early 1950's) and her window overlooked the approach to the building. Woe betide anyone who tried to sneak in past this attractive and beautifully groomed but, one must admit, somewhat imposing, keeper of the gates! But one very quickly found that her determined manner covered a kindly, generous, loveable and very talented personality who gave herself wholeheartedly to the job she had undertaken. The more one came to know her, the more one came to admire and respect her — and to love her.

Rena joined The Questors as Theatre Manager in 1944. The Questors was then a rapidly expanding organisation under the leadership of Alfred Emmet. It had a national reputation which Alfred was turning into an international one. He was a workaholic who demanded an enormous amount from the people who worked with him. In Rena he had found the ideal right hand woman. She showed the total commitment which she was to show again and again in her work around the borough: prepared to work all the hours God made and never prepared to accept second-best, least of all from herself. Rena once wrote of her interview for the Questors' job:

"I was asked many questions and how much I was prepared to do for the theatre. I promised everything I could, with only one proviso... that I should always be free to go to church on Sunday mornings. Little did I know that in the end I would be doing ninety hours a week and coping with all sorts of strange jobs from office work to painting scenery to cleaning loos !"

The church she attended was St Peter's, Ealing, where she began a Youth Drama Group with much success in local festivals. Alfred subsequently asked her to start youth drama groups at The Questors and eventually she ran five or six groups from age fourteen upwards. These were the beginnings of the popular drama groups which are still very much a part of The Questors experience. One could even say
they were the germ of the Student Group for which The Questors now has a national reputation.

In 1949 Rena left The Questors to work at the BBC where she stayed for seven years, eventually leaving to freelance, lecturing on drama and producing. While she freelanced she took copious time to involve herself in community work. She was a prominent figure in the Townswomen's Guild, especially where drama was concerned, and became both chairman and secretary of the West Middlesex Federation of the Towns Womens Guild. She played a salient role in the Ealing Arts Council. She was the industrious secretary of the Hanwell Festival Committee. A fellow committee member said;

"Rena was marvellous. She knew so many people. She knew just where to go to get things done. So often a matter of business finished with . . . 'Right, we'll leave it to Rena, then!' ".

Last year Rena became secretary of the Parochial Church Council of St Mellitus Church, Hanwell, the church which, with St Peter's, had meant so much in her life. Rena was widely known and respected throughout the Borough and her funeral was attended by a host of friends and admirers from the many different organisations with which she had been associated. She was always so vital, always to be found purposefully hurrying from one commitment to another with a marvellously graceful carriage and the band-box look she always had, both of which she kept till her last days.

We are going to miss her. She is one of the legendary figures whose hard work and determination helped to make The Questors the internationally recognised Amateur Theatre it is today. She once said in one of her lectures:

"I am not afraid to say that I love amateur theatre. I live amateur theatre! And if I can convey one tenth of any experience I have had to the hundreds of people I have enjoyed meeting, I am on a 'high' and prepared to accept any setbacks and temporary disappointments. The bones may be a bit brittle, but the spirit, I hope, will continue to be bright and vital for many years."

Rena's spirit was certainly bright and vital and we may be thankful that she shared it with us at The Questors.