She Lives the Glamorous Theater Life (and what calms her down after exiting the stage)

Oct 2, 2018 | What Works

Let’s take a look at a typical day for Derby Dinner Playhouse actor and director Tina Jo Wallace.

“I get up at 6, pack lunches, and take my oldest daughter Elizabeth,12, to school. I come back home and make sure Anna, 10, is up and getting ready for school. I walk at Creason Park then return home, and my husband Matt (who is the producing artistic director for Kentucky Shakespeare) makes breakfast for all of us. I take Anna to school and I am at Derby Dinner Playhouse by 9:15.”

Hold on. She is just getting started.

“If I’m in rehearsal for a show, I am in the rehearsal studio by 10. Rehearsals start about two-and-a-half weeks before the show opens.”

“If a show is open, then in the mornings, as director of The Children’s Theatre, I’m casting for the children’s shows, reading plays for the new season, emailing parents, and working on social media. I also write all the study guides for teachers and the classes that come to the student matinees.”

If she is performing, “I’m back at the theater by 7:15pm. I’m there until at least 10 or later. When I get home I am charged with adrenaline so I take off my makeup, have a glass of red wine, talk with Matt, and try to be in bed by midnight because I have to be up at 6am.”

Tina Jo gets ready to transition into character mode in preparation for rehearsals.
So much for theater’s glamorous life.

Tina Jo has been with Derby Dinner for 15 years. She performs in at least four shows a year. She starts learning the script at least a month before rehearsals even begin. “That way during rehearsal I can listen to the director, try different strategies, play with timing, and I don’t have to worry about trying to learn my lines.”

Her days also might include fittings for costumes and wigs. Then there is the tech rehearsal when the cast works with the lights, the sound, and the final set pieces. Tech runs 10 hours out of 12 on Monday and Tuesday before the opening. There is a performance before a preview audience on Wednesday. During the season, there are eight mainstage shows that run for six weeks and four Children’s Theatre shows.


Currently, Tina Jo plays Nora in Web of Murder that runs through November 11.

“As an actor I love the connection with the audience, and as a director I like that I get to tell the complete story and create the experience.

“The best part is that I never get bored. I tell my students to learn everything about theater — voice, acting, dance. Learn about lighting, costumes, and sets. The more skills you have the more likely you will have a consistent career.”

What works for this woman who has had a consistent 22-year career in the theater?

Brookstone Astro Super Lite
This was given to me by Bekki Jo Schneider (co-owner and producer of DDP, now deceased) the first time I directed. I use it specifically when I am directing during the tech rehearsals because I can take notes in the darkened theater. I wear it around my neck and it just clicks off and on. Because I move from place to place during rehearsals, if someone is looking for me they can find me by the light.

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker
Because my time at home is limited, I try to plan meals so I don’t have to cook every night. I use it to fix chicken, lasagna, or a stew. I find ideas on When I cook a whole chicken we use the leftovers on salads for lunch. I have a large crockpot and a small one.

Neutrogena Make-up Remover Cleansing Towelettes-Night Calming
Eyelash glue is the hardest to get off. I found these wipes to be the gentlest way to get all of it off along with the stage makeup. It’s part of my calming down ritual after a show along with a glass of red wine.


  1. Denise Marks

    My husband and I live Derby Dinner. We love watching you and the others. You do a awesome job! Thank you for all your hard work. We miss seeing Matt perform too. Tell him hi for my husband and I. See you Sunday! Looking forward spending our anniversary date with you and the cast.

  2. Joanne Wallace

    Tina Jo would never admit this, but most importantly, she is a wonderful person inspired by love of the theater, her family and life in general. One of the kindest people in this world, an extremely committed mother who is active in both girls schools. She is just a generous person. I should know. She is my daughter in law.

  3. Walt

    Great article Tina! So proud of you. Love You. Dad and Pat

  4. Jackie and Keith Gladfelter

    I can still heard her voice singing … the song from Annie.. The sun will come out tomorrow… She was a hit than and still is… SOOOOO Proud of you… Tina.. Thank you for sharing with us…


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