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Remembering Sarah Firth (nee Makujina)

Sarah Firth 26 May 1970 to 13 September 2021 New Stager 1989-2003 (and forever...)

We were very sad to hear that one of our long-standing and much loved former members, Sarah Firth, passed away in September. Below are some memories of Sarah, written by her husband Andy, who is also a former New Stager. Andy and Fi, Sarah's sister, will be heading to the Brewers Inn in Wandsworth at 6.30 pm after the Panto set build on Saturday 13 November. Any and all are welcome to join and raise a glass to Sarah's memory.

Please read on to find out more about the shows Sarah was involved in and some of the stories from her time on and off stage.

Memories of Sarah

Sarah Firth (nee Makujina) joined New Stagers in 1989. One of her first jobs was to operate the smoke gun for panto (Aladdin), to which she brought her trademark blend of performance, professionalism and (over) enthusiasm. Sarah’s first appearance on stage was as Miep in The Diary of Anne Frank in April 1990 and she went on to perform in a further 17 shows, and work front of house and backstage on even more.

She did panto, drama, kitchen sink, comedy, musical all with the same approach, never once taking a prompt. She believed in the saying ‘there are no small parts, only small actors’ and took every role on and off stage equally seriously.

Appearing in works by Shakespeare, Russell, Stoppard, Miller and many others (including Paul Johnson and Geoff Rose Michael), Sarah also ‘appeared’ as stagehand, set builder and dresser, prompt, sound operator, costume maker, prop creator, dame’s dresser, programme seller and tea maker. With her beloved sister, Fi, Sarah was often first in and last out at set builds and rehearsals.

One of Sarah’s favourite things was ‘doing lighting’. Learning from Martyn Keeler, she went on to design, plot and operate lighting for a number of shows including her very favourite, Whatever Happened to Kathy Kirby? by Jimmy Chinn (directed for NSTC by Peter Brooker).

Perhaps the biggest highlight (among many) for Sarah of her time with NSTC was helping Mike Ainsworth stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream – she loved the magic of the story and working with Mike and the smashing cast and crew, Sarah helped create a truly memorable spectacle in the New Stagers tradition.

This show also gave rise to a very typical Sarah story: as well as assistant directing, Sarah appeared as the fairy Cobweb, emerging at one point from a wicker basket, in a yellow dress and Doc Martens. At one rehearsal, the crew knocked the basket about a bit too much and left Sarah (who was in it at the time) dizzy and dazed. The team took her to A&E, where she was asked what she was doing when ‘the accident happened’. Sarah replied, ‘I’m a fairy in a picnic hamper’…

Sarah’s husband to be, Andy, joined NSTC in 1998 and they became a couple very quickly, getting married in 2003. They decided to take a hiatus from the group to settle properly into their home in Surbiton and then to raise their son, Aaron, born in January 2004. The plan was to return to the group when Aaron had grown up a bit.

Sadly, when they might have been in a position to do so, Sarah had been diagnosed with MS and her symptoms were beginning to affect her. As such, the family’s focus shifted to keeping her well and raising Aaron.

Sarah and Andy, and when he was a bit older, Aaron too, made it to shows as audience members, and as her condition left her increasingly unwell, Sarah loved nothing more than reminiscing about New Stagers or hearing the latest about the group from Fi, who has of course been a member herself now for over 25 years (!)

NSTC was a huge part of Sarah’s life and she formed many of her happiest memories with her friends, her family at the group. Sarah was passionate about New Stagers and gave her all to the group however she could when she was involved, and when she was not. She enriched the group just as the group enriched her. Sarah would be very proud of how the NSTC traditions of community, excellence and having fun are being lived today.

Sarah’s Onstage Appearances

April 1990 Miep in The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett

July 1990 Sarah in Female Transport by Steve Gooch

October 1990 ‘Assistant Stage Manager’ in Three Piece Suite (The Third Great Coarse Acting Festival) by Questers July 1991

Hairy Hannah in Bad Day at Black Frog Creek by John Gardiner & Fiz Coleman October 1991 Felicity Cunningham in The Real Inspector Hound (Heartbeat) by Tom Stoppard January 1992 Mrs Vinegar in Cinderella by Paul Johnson April 1992 Abigail in The Crucible by Arthur Miller April 1993 Agnes in Agnes of God by John Pielmeier July 1993 Cobweb in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

April 1995 Sharon in Outside Edge by Richard Harris

January 1996 Jake in Treasure Island by Geoff Hall

July 1997 Barbara in Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse & Willis Hall

January 1998 The Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty by Geoff Hall

October 1998 Abigail Sarclet in Duet for Two Hands by Mary Hayley Bell April 1999 Linda in Blood Brothers by Willy Russell

July 1999 Witch 3 in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

January 2001 Gluteus in Aladdin by Paul Johnson & Andy Firth January 2003 Fairy Daisy in Cinderella by Paul Johnson & Andy Firth

1 Comment

Unknown member
Jan 05, 2022

I am so sad to hear of Sarah's passing. I first met her at college where we struck up a great friendship which involved a lot of laughter. Over the years I came to see her perform at New Stagers many times. She was a unique person with such a bubbly personality. I do look back at the times we spent with real warmth and happiness. I've always regretted losing touch. Thoughts and best wishes go to Andy, Fi and their families. Steven Shelley

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