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Joseph Quartson: Keelite of the Month May 2015
1988 Law & Economics
What am I doing now?
I am an actor! It is not such a far cry of from where I started in my salad days at Keele, but it is not where I had imagined myself heading into my halcyon days of middle age. I must confess leaping out of my dreams and into the wild imaginings of various playwrights and directors brings back the excitement of my first days at Hawthorns auditioning for the role of Oedipus with Thorns Players. I think it has been a timely gift granted over 25 years after graduating, that I am experiencing what life may have been like if I had not heeded the wise words of my father to complete my education at Keele and not exclusively at the university of life!
Photo right: Joseph Quartson, actor, as US Senator in "Mission Impossible"
How did you get to where you are now?
I graduated from Keele with thoughts that life would mirror the antics of the legal eagles from LA Law and the fabled power lunches spoken about in hushed tones when working in the city. I did not imagine it would result in me 27 years later treading the boards once again.
In some ways there were those moments of power lunches and power dressing as I spent six months working for a law firm in Brussels before I started as what was then known as an articled clerk and would now be called a trainee solicitor. I was able to see the workings of the European Economic Community first hand and upon returning to London I completed my training in Chancery Lane in the heart of London’s legal landscape.
Photo left: Joe in "Oedipus" at Keele. “Live, Oedipus, as if there's no tomorrow"
I set up and worked for my own firm for many years, but when we took on assisting a new theatre called “the artsdepot” I was also asked to serve as one of its trustees. Walking around the theatre as it was first topped out and then fully commissioned left me with a broad smile and a spring in my step. As well as wondering what it might be like to be up on the stage as the first performances were well received by local audiences. My time as a trustee came to an end and I really gave theatre no more than a nostalgic thought than that might have been me. My wife commented some years later that she had rarely seen me happier than when I was involved in the performing arts and suggested I consider joining an agency which provided extras to the movie industry in London. It might be a way to scratch that particular itch and you never know I might be able to be spotted by my nieces and nephews in the background of some obscure movie.
I enjoyed the variety and for me the quiet excitement of being again in the performing arts world. I recall being asked, on more than one occasion, on various sets if I was an actor because I seemed to be enjoying what I was doing so much. At some point I found myself also wondering if I should answer the question “am I an actor?” I joined the Identity School of Acting on a part time basis and also undertook training with the British Action Academy Warrior Master class for screen action combat.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I think it has been the small accomplishments along the away leading to being able to pursue this latent desire which have to date been my biggest achievements. I gained my Equity card, became eligible to register on Spotlight, returned to the stage and gained a role on the big screen as a United States Senator overseeing the dissolution of the IMF in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation to be released at the end of July 2015. I suppose as well I reached an unspoken aspiration to ascend to high office but not in the way I may have imagined!
And your biggest mistake?
Not asking and seeking help sooner when it became necessary to close my firm. However, at the same time I could not have arrived where I am now without those missteps and the opportunity to embark upon something that most definitely puts a smile on my face.
What are your ambitions now?
I am enjoying the opportunity to perform and explore this new side to my creativity. My ambition is still, in 30 years time, to be holding my own with some of great and the good of the stage, as well as, both the sliver and small screens.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
It is never too late and there really isn’t a right time or a perfect time to follow your dreams. Be bold in your desires and actions. You can wait and allow life to truly pass you by, wrapped up in its tales, sagas and dramas where you are a reluctant participant or you can strike out boldly in a different direction and see where what can be described as a ‘leap of faith’ may take you.
What made you choose Keele University?
At the time it was the realisation that academic study did not have to be about an ever narrower field of study. The opportunity to follow up on the Economics A level and combine it with Law presented a way to explore something I was interested in and make sure my chances of what my parents saw as a “proper” job could be realised. It was also the notion of a Foundation Year where you could gain experience of other fields of study and if something really called to you then maybe you could see where that could lead.
What kind of a student were you?
I did enjoy my time at Keele, Thorns players, basketball club, The Thorns Ball – croissants! I think I was the kind of student who did appreciate being in a setting surrounded by countryside and given the chance to make the transition from home life to the real world. I was in many ways not at all worldly wise and Keele did let me see and meet other students and discover disciplines I would have been unlikely to encounter.
Photo left: Joe looking dapper in K Block.
Photo right: Joe's Graduation Day, 1988
How has Keele influenced your life?
My experiences and friends met at Keele still echo through my life. Keele itself has been the back drop and touch stone to my ambitions. The knowledge that you are not necessarily pigeon holed and that you do have a broader range of skills available has been invaluable.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Thorns Players’ many plays, a mixed basketball tour to Rotterdam and the spinning gymnasium and most of all, the life and friends in K Block.
What is your impression of Keele now?
It remains a vibrant campus with enthusiastic students and faculty. It flourishes as a research centre and has expanded to encompass a medical school. I remain proud to have it be part of my legacy and for having it be the springboard for my future.
Anything else you would like to add?
Walking onto campus I never imagined all the friendships, events, moments, missteps and achievements that would lead to the chance to explore living truthfully in truly fantastic and imaginary circumstances!