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People: Director Andrea Montgomery's special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

The 49-year-old theatre director is originally from Canada and now lives in Belfast with her husband, musician Anthony Toner. Her new production of five plays, Arrivals2, is currently touring Northern Ireland.

My husband, Anthony

I met Anthony on the very first day I arrived in Northern Ireland. The chairman of the board of the theatre I was going to run picked me up from the airport and drove me up to Coleraine.

He was showing me around when we ran into Anthony, who was then editor of the local paper, and the chairman introduced us.

It was years later before we got together and we got married a few years ago beside a river in Quebec.

Anthony and I are each other's sounding board and he will do anything to make me laugh.

My stepdaughter, Sian

Sian is Anthony's 31-year-old daughter and she is very special to me. She's a very funky, environmentally sound feminist and works as a librarian. I adore her and take great pleasure in signing birthday cards from her "evil step-mother". We're a very close unit, as Sian and her boyfriend live in the house next door to us in east Belfast. We've even knocked the fence down between the two houses so we have one big garden. She was also bridesmaid at our wedding.

My best friend, Emma Powell

I met Emma in 1995 when we shared a flat together in London and over the years she's become something of a muse to me, too.

I'm currently working on a play called All At Once I Saw A Crowd, with her in mind for one of the characters. She still lives in London but we see each other whenever we can and I'm godmother to her son Elliott.

My parents, William and Julia

My mother and father are both from British Columbia, Canada. My dad was from a tiny town in the mountains called Cultus Lake and mum was a posh city girl from Vancouver. He followed her to Europe and they were married in London.

My dad was a Canadian diplomat, so my parents had their first posting in Delhi in 1963. They managed to keep my brother Ian and I with them on every posting, so we went to school in Thailand, Geneva, Jakarta.

We were a very tight-knit family, but my father was only 67 when he died. Mum lives half the year in London and half the year in Quebec, but she's always made a point of coming to Northern Ireland. Ian now lives in New York.

Who I go to for advice

As a director it's hard for me to take advice, as I am normally giving it.

When it comes to making my way in Northern Irish culture, though, I still ask my husband.

My celebrity crush, Gabriel Byrne

I remember when The Usual Suspects came out, everyone was raving about Kevin Spacey's performance, but I was thinking about Gabriel Byrne. He's a great actor, very charming. I would love to direct him one day.

My mentor, Helen Kerr

I think having a mentor you can relate to is crucial and I really felt the lack of a female mentor when I was a young director.

When I was a postgraduate student in Ontario, Helen Kerr was my boss at the Science Centre.

My job there had nothing to do with the theatre but Helen was a great leader.

I still find myself occasionally making a gesture or using a turn of phrase that reminds me of her when I am standing in front of a room full of people.

Fantasy dinner party

First I would ask Jane Austen. She's so witty and gets the nuances of human behaviour.

Then I'd like to ask Oscar Wilde, to hear what he has to say about theatre. He would also be great at talking to Jane Austen.

Next, I'd ask Michelle Obama, as she's whip-smart, compassionate and exciting.

Finally, I'd go for Deborah Tannen. She wrote Talking From 9 to 5, about how women and men's conversational styles affect who gets heard. I use it to teach women assertiveness at work, and I'd love to hear her, Michelle and Jane take on Oscar.

  • Arrivals2 is at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, tonight before touring Northern Ireland for the rest of March. For details and venues, visit www.terranovaproductions.net

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