Deborah Fabbro – beyond the call of duty

Whether working on her own or someone else’s production, Deborah has shown a capacity to do more than expected in a selfless and conscientious way.

Director, Production Manager, Reviewer and, importantly for the theatre community, Treasurer for the VDL, Deborah has worked many hours in the VDL office.

With our City office closed for months Deborah has continued to travel into our office to maintain our mailout of scripts service, ALL VOLUNTARILY!

Speaking here with VDL President Bruce Cochrane, Deborah explains how it’s possible to maintain such a commitment to her theatre activities.

BRUCE: Where would you say your standards come from?

DEBORAH: Definitely my parents. They instilled a very strong work ethic in me which has led to a can-do attitude and the desire to fulfill any commitment I make. I took my cue to volunteer with various community and charity organizations from my mother who still volunteers for organizations in her community.

BRUCE: Any particular people who have been your guiding light?

DEBORAH: I’ve worked with a number of amazing people over the years, both within and outside of the theatre world. Through volunteering with the VDL, Brighton Theatre Company, Brighton Benevolent Society and the Leukaemia Foundation I have met people who are so committed to pursuing the goals and aims of those organizations. I guess I’ve taken a little of their knowledge and passion and instilled it in my life and approach to things. I’m always inspired by people who are passionate about the thing they do and I like to feel that I have the same approach.

BRUCE: What got you involved with theatre?

DEBORAH: My mother. I saw my first panto at about age 3 and my first ballet at 5 (my mother and I still subscribe to the ballet together, all these years on) so have always had the performing arts in my life. I did classical ballet until I broke my ankle at age 15 but by then I’d got involved with drama at school and it just continued from there.

I believe we are drawn to like-minded people. My husband Ewen and I met at work, for a company not connected to the theatre, but when I discovered he was involved with theatre the rest was, as they say, history! I have always been surrounded by artistic and creative people and I feel we are intrinsically drawn together.

BRUCE: And so somewhere along the way you’ve taken on this ethic that it’s critical for you to do any task to a 100% standard?  I haven’t known many people with as high a level of responsibility.

DEBORAH: I don’t like dealing in half measures so if I’ve committed to something I have to see it completed to the best of my ability. That is perhaps made easier by the fact that many of the things I do are things I’m passionate about so then it becomes a labour of love rather than an onerous task or obligation. I know sometimes I get just a little obsessed when I’m doing the props for a production but I love the satisfaction of finding or making something that is just ideal and realizes mine and the director’s vision. When directing, bringing together all the elements of a production well, is just so exhilarating. Even balancing the books satisfies that ethic.

BRUCE: How long have you had an affinity with accounting?

DEBORAH: I don’t know that it’s an affinity but I do like the orderliness and method of it. I think it satisfies my left brain while my artistic pursuits satisfy my right brain. It deals in absolutes while artistic endeavours allow us to explore and create on multiple levels without any constraints.

Gold Award Properties Design, The VDL Awards 2018.
Deborah Fabbro, Neil Barnett and Norma Seager for The Room Next Door, or the vibrator play, Brighton Theatre Company

BRUCE: So as the VDL’s Financial Controller, how would you sum up our financial outlook?

DEBORAH:  2020 has become a very challenging year for everyone on so many levels, particularly in the Arts. Usual revenue has mostly disappeared which puts huge demands on us.  Some organizations, including the VDL with particular thanks to Alison Campbell Rate, have found new and innovative ways to continue to engage with members. Like many small NFPs, the VDL has faced previous financial challenges over its almost-seventy-year history. I believe as an organization we are very aware of steering a prudent financial course and are fortunate that we do have a small surplus which provides a slight buffer against this year’s loss of income.

In this past financial year, I was able to secure smaller premises for our library in Ross House which will ease some financial pressure on us. Fortunately, this was all finalized before March as it would not have been possible to relocate since then. Over the past few years the VDL has been fortunate to have received a number of donations which have enabled us to maintain and expand our services.

Membership and library services remain our primary sources of income and we do hope that people will continue to support us by keeping up their membership and utilizing the library as we continue to devise new ways of engaging with and supporting them.

BRUCE: What do you think we can take out of the Pandemic year of 2020?

DEBORAH:   Nothing stays the same. Be prepared and be adaptable. The 2021 year, with new protocols in theatres, will be a very different setting but we are resilient and will rise to the new roles required of us with our usual dedication to our theatrical pursuits.

BRUCE: We get to know such a lot of people in our circle and such a diversity but what are the characteristics that stand out for you with the theatre community?

DEBORAH:  I love that most people are so committed to what they do and have enormous drive and enthusiasm.

BRUCE:  How do you prioritize your time to manage domestic, personal and theatre commitments so efficiently?

DEBORAH:  I don’t sleep! Well actually, I do a little but not a lot but I am very much supported in all that I do by my husband which makes it easy to pursue my various activities. Ewen understands the commitment and time spent on a production so is not fazed by my sometimes obsessive behaviour and long absences. Of course, this year has been different and he, along with The Fluff Cat, are rather bemused by my constant presence at home! And even when I’m attending various meetings, it’s only in another part of the house! Thank goodness for Zoom, something most of us had not heard of at the beginning of this year.

The Fluff Cat always ready to help with computer tasks.

BRUCE: When the ‘war’ is over what will be the first things you want to do?

DEBORAH:  Like everybody, I want to feel that my life is ‘normal’ again. Apart from the obvious of attending theatre and other live performances, I want to get back to the projects I was directing and preparing for before all this started. I’m also desperate to spend time down at my spiritual home by the beach (which I’ve only visited twice since the end of the summer hols in early March) but most importantly it will be to meet up with friends in person and not through a digital medium, and to give people a hug.

BRUCE: Many thanks for all that you do for the theatre community, Deborah, and thanks for sharing your thoughts in our conversation.

DEBORAH:  My pleasure. The photos below summarize this year for me. The tee shirt on the left which I was wearing in Feb/Mar is, for now, hanging in the wardrobe and I am wearing the other which sums up what we all want to see as soon as it is safe to do so.