Penny Tuerk: Life Member, former Chairman and Artistic Director
To celebrate Penny Tuerk’s time and achievements at the Tower there was a dedicated performance of Deposit on Saturday April 6th 2019, with a drinks reception and a ceremony to name the new “Penny Tuerk Room”.
Annemarie Fearnley writes:
The evening performance of the current Tower production, Deposit, was dedicated to the memory of Penny Tuerk, who originally pitched for and intended to direct the play. Prior to the performance a large group of friends gathered together in the beautifully-decorated Tower bar for a drinks reception to celebrate the almost 50 years Penny dedicated to the theatre. The drinks were followed by the unveiling of the newly-named “Penny Tuerk Room” (formerly Rehearsal Room 2) by Penny’s husband, Laurence, and Artistic Director, Martin Mulgrew.
Speeches followed in the auditorium. Martin read out a speech written by Chairman of the Board, Helena Cashmore, in which she spoke not only of the incredible work and tireless energy Penny invested in the company but also of the strong friendships she made both on and off the stage. Isaac Insley read out a speech written by his mother, Roanne, in which she spoke of the wonderful years of working with Penny (both “fun and scary times”!) but most of all the warm relationship she had with her family and the holidays they shared.
To sum up the evening in the words of Helena:
“Penny is, and will continue to be, greatly missed but we have no doubt that her vibrant spirit will live on in the innumerable people she inspired.”
Roanne’s final words were “We miss her terribly”. It was a heart-warming evening.
Everyone was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Penny Tuerk after a very short illness. She suffered a stroke at home and died a few days later in hospital.
Penny had been a mainstay of the Company for 47 years. She joined shortly after moving to London to work at the BBC and her first appearance was as Electra in The Libation Bearers in 1971. She went on to perform in around 50 shows ending with her wonderful Chorus in Henry V – she was very proud to be able to speak the first words of the first show in the new theatre.
She met her husband, Laurence, at the Tower when working on Oh What a Lovely War in 1973, and they married two years later.
After a few years, she tried her hand at directing, initially choosing modern classics but moving on to larger scale productions – older members will remember her triumphant Once in a Lifetime at the Minack Theatre and three of the Tower annual pantomimes. Her first Shakespeare as director was Twelfth Night, in 1993, and after that she took on a major production nearly every year either for the annual tour to Paris or for the Minack. The last tour show that she directed was Romeo and Juliet in 2016.
She got a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from her artistic work but felt she had a duty to give something back by helping to run the Company. Accordingly, she served on the main Tower Committees for around 40 years in some capacity or other. She was Chairman of the Company (now Management) Committee for two long spells and was Artistic Director for three years. She was a member of the Board and became its Chairman shortly after we lost the lease in Canonbury, at a very difficult time for the Company. She played a key part in the negotiations to secure the financial settlement that in the end made it possible to buy the new theatre in Stoke Newington. She worked very hard on a project to establish a base for the Company in Shoreditch at the site of Shakespeare’s original “Theatre”. And her final achievement as Chairman was to steer through the legal changes to reform the formal structure and management of the Board and Committee.
She liked helping out in almost every aspect of the of the Tower’s activities. She was due to direct a new play in 2019, and in the audition notice she wrote of herself : “In 2018 she has directed Di and Viv and Rose at Theatro Technis, appeared as Time in The Winter’s Tale and the Chorus in Henry V, operated sound for Wolf Hall and spent quite a lot of time in the Box Office, so you’ve probably seen her around.”
She will be much missed.
Penny directed 30 shows for the Tower :
- The Heiress (1981)
- A Man for All Seasons (1981)
- Epitaph for George Dillon (1982)
- The Lady’s Not For Burning (1983) #
- A Doll’s House (1984)
- Dick Whittington (and his Wonderful Cat) (1987)
- Aladdin (1988)
- Once in a Lifetime (1990) #
- The Secret Rapture (1992)
- Twelfth Night (1993) $
- Pride and Prejudice (1994) #
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1995) $
- The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Part Two) (1996) #
- Puss in Boots (1998)
- The Merchant of Venice (1999) $
- As You Like It (2000) $
- The Wind in the Willows (2002) #
- The Action against Sol Schumann (2002)
- Antony and Cleopatra (2004) $
- Garden (2005) #
- The Tempest (2006) $
- Death of a Salesman (2007)
- Curiouser and Curiouser (2007) #
- The Archbishop’s Ceiling (2009)
- Julius Caesar (2010) $
- David Copperfield (2012) #
- The Taming of the Shrew (2013) $
- Marching Song (2014)
- Romeo and Juliet (2016) $
- Di and Viv and Rose (2018)