YORK’S arts world is mourning the loss of one of its best-known figures, whose skills helped everybody from actors to businessmen and teachers overcome their public-speaking nerves.
Writer, theatre director and voice specialist Susan Stern, who was heavily involved with York Theatre Royal for many years and whose plays were broadcast on national radio, passed away in St Leonard’s Hospice at the age of 62, having been diagnosed with a brain tumour last summer.
The mother-of-three, from Heslington, co-authored several best-selling cookbooks with her youngest son Sam and worked on more than 80 productions, specialising in voice and text work on Shakespeare, while also writing communications material based on theatre skills for the likes of the NHS and The King’s Fund.
Her daughter, Polly Bennett, described her as “the best mother in the world” who nurtured her children’s love of the arts from an early age by taking them with her to work.
Polly said: “Whatever else was going on in her life, she was family-first, a lovely person who would always go out of her way to do that extra thing for somebody. Our house was the one everybody wanted to come to because she was so welcoming and an amazing cook.
“She loved creative work and became very well-known locally in York as it was such a good way of meeting people.
“She wrote stories and poems for my children which we are still coming across, and she was very supportive of us reading, writing and going to the theatre.
“From when I was little, she would take me to the theatre and put me next to her in the stalls while she did her work. We were exposed to the arts from an early age because she felt it was so important, so I now do the same with my children to carry on what she did for us.”
Mrs Stern was also involved with West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, with Polly saying she was “a theatre all-rounder”.
She was a close friend of Theatre Royal artistic director Damian Cruden, who visited her every day in the hospice when she was transferred there just before Christmas after her condition became worse.
As well as Polly, Sam and their brother Tom, Mrs Stern leaves her husband, Jeffrey, and two stepchildren.
Her funeral will be held at Heslington Church at 11am on January 28, with donations to St Leonard’s Hospice in lieu of flowers.