We Are Randox | Tanya McKinty, Theater Choreographer turned R&D Scientist
Nerdy scientist by day but all singing all dancing performer by night – is there anything that Tanya McKinty can’t do?
Tanya works in the new state-of-the-art Randox Science Park as an R&D scientist but is also busy preparing for her roles as Lambeth landlady Mrs. Brown and Pearly Queen in the musical comedy ‘Me and My Girl.’
Tanya is performing this evening and the rest of the week (9th – 13th May) in the Grand Opera House and so we wanted to celebrate her talents and hard work with a feature piece on her personal musical story.
Good luck tonight Tanya!
Read on to find out how Tanya balances her scientific career and her passion for performing arts.
Hi Tanya, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started here in Randox?
I joined the company in 1993 after completing my PhD in Physical Chemistry and was involved in the early development work on the Randox biochips. But I have always loved studying so I did a Maths degree part time with the Open University and correspondence courses in spreadsheets, databases and VB programming. Now my official title is Data Analyst and I spend most of my time analysing data and devising problem-solving workbooks and macros for many departments throughout the company.
So how did you get into musical theatre given your strong background in Science and Maths?
I have been performing on stage since I was seven years old. My family was involved in ‘Those Who Care’ (TWC) which was a company set up by Tom McMurtry to provide entertainment to the staff and patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital. They put on spring revue shows and Christmas pantomimes. I started as a dancer and then as I grew older I gradually began getting more acting roles. My first big acting role was when I was sixteen were I played the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. After that I got involved with some of the amateur companies in Belfast that staged musicals.
I always had a great interest in dance and attended ballet and tap until I was 18. I took jazz, hip hop contemporary and musical theatre dance lessons as well. In 2013 I received my Diploma in Musical Theatre from the London College of Music. Since then I have taken part in a range of different acting workshops and play the piano occasionally. I was always more interested in music theory rather than music practice because I was quite mathematical. I reached grade five in theory and grade four in practice.
What do you do now in terms of acting?
Right now I am preparing to play the roles of Lambeth landlady Mrs. Brown and Pearly Queen in the musical comedy ‘Me and My Girl’. This is with St Agnes’ Choral Society and will take place in the Grand Opera House from the 9th-13th May. We have been rehearsing for past four months for it so I’m really looking forward to showcasing it to a public audience.
Can you tell us a bit about the preparation that has gone into ‘Me and My Girl’?
The early rehearsals involved learning all the music with our musical director. Most of the choral numbers are (at least) four part harmony and it’s important to get that drilled first so that when you start adding movement the harmonies are second nature and you only have to focus on what your feet are doing.
We then started learning the choreographed routines. There are some fast-paced numbers in this show so you really have to build up stamina to sing and dance at the same time. After that we start putting it all together with the dialogue scenes to learn where everything fits into place and when to make entrances and exits.
The week before the show is the most exciting but also the most exhausting. Stage manager, props team, sound and lighting all come along to rehearsals and we have the costume call where we get to see what the costumiers have sent over for us to wear. Then it’s into the Opera House for band call (singing with the full orchestra), tech rehearsal to mark scene changes and identify any technical issues and then dress rehearsal.
How did you get started with St Agnes’ Choral Society?
My friend was choreographing ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ for the company and they were short on dancers so she asked me to come in for the show. Everyone in the company was so friendly and welcoming and there was just a great family feel to it. So I auditioned to officially join the company and I haven’t looked back.
Can you tell us the names of any plays that you have starred in?
To date my two biggest roles have probably been Mrs Meers in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and Lorraine in ‘Boogie Nights’ which was a 70s musical. I’ve also had roles in ‘42nd Street’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘9 to 5’ as well as others. My favourite character to play would be the villain or to have a good comedy role. I think Mrs Meers has been one of my favourite characters to play as she is a bit of both.
What has been the highlight of your time in St Agnes’ Choral Society to date?
By far the best highlight for me was being nominated as ‘Best Comedienne’ at the Association of Irish Musical Societies (AIMS). The AIMS has an adjudication scheme which considers all the musicals staged by amateur companies throughout Ireland. In June they have an awards weekend with a ceremony on the Saturday night very much in the style of the Oscars which is very glamorous. In 2011 I got nominated for my role as Mrs Meers. Although I didn’t win I still got an award for the mantelpiece, plus I didn’t have to make any acceptance speech which was a bonus I quite enjoyed.
Are there any upcoming plays happening after ‘Me and My Girl’?
Yes, we put on a show every year so the next one will be next year at some point. We haven’t announced which show yet but when it’s announced I’ll make sure to let you know. We perform an annual show in the Grand Opera House and then have a concert program for the rest of the year.
What do you enjoy most about acting in all of these plays?
I love reading and analysing a script to get an insight into a character. I also love telling a story no matter how complicated it is and experimenting with different ways to bring that character to life. I have worn an enormous fat suit and danced on a table, chased people around the stage with a (fake) shotgun and been the office drunk. But my favourite thing is working together with a team of people to give an audience an experience.
How did you get involved in choreographing shows throughout NI?
I started choreographing for the TWC because I had the most dance experience. I then joined Ulster Operatic and became dance captain (probably because I was the bossiest dancer!) and then started choreographing for them. After that I got approached by different companies to work with them.
What shows have you choreographed?
Lots! My favourites have been 42nd Street, High School Musical (I and II), Little Shop of Horrors, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Sister Act and Sunset Boulevard.
Do you have any other interests/hobbies outside of work?
I love to read if I can find time. My favourite genre would be historical novels.
What led you to pursue a career in science over acting?
I have always been a science geek! I got my first chemistry set when I was 11 and loved puzzles and problem-solving so I was always destined to be a scientist.
How do you manage your time between Randox and rehearsals?
Usually rehearsals are only once or twice a week so it’s not too bad. When we are rehearsing for a show our big rehearsals tend to be at the weekend. It can be exhausting but you get such a buzz from it that it’s worth it.
We’re so proud of Tanya and her commitment and dedication to her musical passion. We know she will do so well in the Grand Opera House this evening and can’t wait to hear how it goes!
Break a leg!
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