When you ask Joan Bourke if she remembers where the performing bug started for her only grandson, all she can say is, it seems like Jake Speer always been doing it.
"As a kid, he would get the brush and dustpan and use the brush handle as a microphone, singing to whoever would listen," Mrs Bourke said.
"He and his sister were always putting on little plays and concerts for the family."
With only one day to go before he takes the stage at the Roxy Theatre in the title role of Henry V, that little boy has come a long way from those dustpan concerts.
But the foundations of his success haven't changed - home, family and community.
The Roxy production of Henry V, which opens tomorrow night, has seen Speer take on his greatest challenge to date - director, creative visionary, lead role, and mentor of the Henry V Company of Players, many of whom have never been on stage before now.
"It's an absolute honour to work alongside each and every person involved, and this show belongs to everyone - and to our town and our community. It shows once again what we're all capable of together," Speer said.
"I've seen every single person associated with this show grow and change from being part of it, and that includes me."
His mum, Tania, remembers Speer's first big break, and the huge decision they had to take for Jake to leave home in 2008 at the age of 15 to attend Kooringal High School in Wagga.
"We realized early on Jake was drawn to performing like a little moth. After driving back and forth to Wagga for him to do shows for about a year, the opportunity to be cast in The Wiz at Kooringal as the Cowardly Lion came up," Ms Speer said.
"I said to him - is this what you want to do? And he said, yes, so, we made it happen.
"It was very hard to let him go, but we had to let him take the chance."
Those Wagga days led to a residential acting scholarship in Sydney - an application to the National Institute for Dramatic Arts (NIDA) - and ultimately being accepted into NIDA in 2010.
Along with his friend Brandon McClelland, they were the two youngest ever of a first-year cohort.
Then, fresh out of three years NIDA training, into Home and Away as heartthrob Oscar MacGuire, and the rest is history.
The career trajectory so far for this hometown talent has included theatre, film, television and musicals. Things like Backyard Ashes (2013), The Government Inspector (2011), Kinky Boots (2018), original projects, like the ongoing podcasts with Brandon - Beau and Tim, and Tres Bond - and most recently his short film Jump being included in the regional Flickerfest tour.
Landmark short film Inside Water, and documentary, Leeton - the Formative Years, were key milestones, both products of Leeton's passionate and creative community spirit.
Like much of Speer's body of work so far, Henry V is unmistakably a Riverina product. It's 500-year-old Shakespeare, but deeply rooted to the place it is being staged.
What could be more 'Leeton' than a magnificent set made of wooden pallets donated by Leeton businesses?
Or a play about a Band of Brothers fighting together against insurmountable odds - like every football team, every team of workers on the family farm, or diggers gathering round our cenotaph at dawn on ANZAC Day.
"I never thought I'd be the kid to leave his home, but all those years ago, there was no time to do anything but strap in," Speer said.
But my connection to home never wavered.
"To this day, each time I pass Kamarah on the back road in, and turn toward Colinroobie, and the rise of Bunganbil comes into view, I know I'm where I belong."
What comes next, as the Roxy undergoes her redevelopment, and the Roxy Institute of Performing Arts takes shape under the Creative Directorship of Speer, will be built on the powerful spirit of transformation that has shaped Henry V.
It's history in the making.
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