Our day in Donny

— 30th September 2011 —

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Had a wonderful day at the Doncaster Playhouse with the team from Manningham City Council today. We were all bumped in within no time, so Team Weather headed across the road (in the car!) to the famous Doncaster Shopping Centre for a "spot of shopping"/lunch. I can't say that it's my cup of tea, a place like that. I don't enjoy shopping...but I do enjoy trying to work out why there are so many people there spending money. We took about 20 mins getting out of the maze of a carpark ("For goodness sake, Ryan, we're walking next time") and went back into the theatre to get ready for the 2pm matinee. Had a nice little crowd in. It was nice to see some familiar faces in the foyer afterwards and I enjoyed chatting to a few audience members about family history and what Doncaster used to look like when they were growing up. Doncaster is in a lovely high spot with a view of the city skyline. It's always fascinating to think that a suburb only 25mins from the CBD used to be considered the country, with orchards and paddocks.

We ventured back to Doncaster Shopping Centre for an early tea (in the car again...I'm such a pushover). Set up in the food court in front of the large windows looking over the city and Doncaster Road. Almost bearable. Back to the theatre to get ready for another show. Excited to know I had a large group of friends in the audience at this performance. We shared our single dressing room with the local group from Sherbrooke Theatre Company, who were performing two short original works in the first half of the show. Just like the old days, the main feature was presented after interval. It was good to hear some laughs during the first half - meant the audience was nice and warmed up for The Weather and Your Health. Came out on stage and heard a few people ooh and ahh and gasp (probably friends who haven't seen me with my hair up or lipstick on before!)

Had SUCH a fun time performing for a full house. Was honestly one of the most delightful and memorable performances of the show to date. We received a standing ovation during the curtain call and had an absolute ball drawing the raffle and squeezing past people to mingle and eat cake in the very crowded little foyer.

A large group from Fitzroy North Church headed to the Pancake Parlour for dessert (after the sponge cake), so after Team Weather had bumped out and packed the car, we popped by to say hello. They applauded as we came in and I was thrilled to see that all the girls had put lipstick on as a response to the play! ("I always wear lipstick..it makes a difference...") Ryan took some great group shots - such amazing support and beautiful friends. Had a bit of fun on the way out ordering take away ice creams and taking shots in front of the midget mirror at the entrance. Home to our own beds tonight.

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Big guitars, big country, big fun!

— 23rd September 2011 —

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A day off in Tamworth as tourists was followed by a performance at the Capitol Theatre. Windy weather made it a tough performance due to noise (a piece of tin crashed consistently against the roof above the stage), but the team powered on. It was a treat to find a number of audience members in Tamworth had grown up in Gilgandra, the town in which the play is set. Such a small world, isn't it?

We arrived in Gunnedah to find there had been an accommodation mix up. Would you believe that everything else in town was booked out?! Joked that they were all in town to see the show. (Unfortunately not). Managed to secure a house on the other side of town that was for sale but furnished for us to spend the night! Had a meal at yet another pub and then had a great time with the boys pretending to be housemates in a sitcom. Up the next morning for a delightful performance at the Civic Theatre in the centre of town. We were treated very well by the staff. Croissants, lollies, tea and coffee...hasty removal of frog from dressing room toilet etc! Over morning tea with the audience in Gunnedah, it was suggested we take the scenic route to Armidale for our final show. So, off the beaten track we went! Had a great time taking pictures on the dusty road and stopping to allow cattle to cross in front of the car. Lucky I'm a country girl at heart...

Our performance at The Armidale School was great fun. A large group of locals booked in as well as two classes from the boys campus. Ryan had two student helpers with him for the bump in and performance. It was a delight to meet such well mannered, capable young men! Had a tour of the other amazing facilities at the Michael Hoskins Creative Arts Centre before heading back to Tamworth and flying home to Melbourne, tired but happy.

5 shows down, only 35 to go! On to regional Victoria now. We'll see you at the show!

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Barraba, here we come!

— 18th September 2011 —

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Had breakfast with the family before packing the car and heading south to Barraba. Goodbye, Bingara!

We arrived at the Playhouse Hotel in Barraba with plenty of time to spare. We were greeted warmly by Andrew Sharp, the venue manager/hotel owner/ tech support/host -  one of the most entertaining people I have ever met!

We were given a tour of the facilities (incredible). Andrew has converted an old pub into a boutique hotel, dining, function and cultural centre - it's amazing to see so much style and flair in one little town. The locals are very proud of what is happening there and, as a result, the turn out was great for the performance at 3.30pm.

The performance space is a lovely intimate black box theatre/cinema with lots of character. After getting ready upstairs in one of the modern hotel rooms, I entered the stage to a round of applause from the audience - it was so lovely! Felt very relaxed throughout the performance knowing that the audience was with my character every step of the way. No need to force anything. It was one of the most enjoyable performances of this show to date.

The supper following was delicious, lavish and almost rowdy! We had people aged from 6 to 85 years old and all were excited to hear that Nan was in the audience (the family decided to follow us from Bingara to Barraba, which was great...though perhaps some would see it as being over zealous!) Lots of stories and fun times had by all.

Over afternoon tea I asked one of the kids, a young boy by the name of Max, what his favourite part of the show was and he proceeded to reenact whole scenes right there in front of me...word perfect! I am relieved to have found a suitable stand-in for my role while I am on this 40 show tour.

After the last audience members headed home, we packed up the theatre and sat down to a delicious candelit dinner with Andrew and his cousin, Jim from Armidale. Ryan, Andy and I couldn't believe the quality of the food and wine being offered. We had mussels for entree followed by our choice of rack of lamb, crispy duck or chicken for main and a lime semifreddo tart for dessert. Then there was the entertainment! Hilarious stories and quips from Andrew and the kitchen staff (as they appeared dramatically from behind cream drapes!) I've never seen anything like it and can only recommend that everyone take the time to stop by the Barraba Playhouse Hotel whenever they are next exploring the North of New South Wales.

We tore ourselves away from the fun and drove to Tamworth to check-in on time. Were all very glad to avoid spotting a single kangaroo during that drive. Nice work, Ryan. (Thanks for making us laugh so much too, you're such an asset to any touring party!)

Day off tomorrow to explore the town and catch up on some admin.

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Hitting the road (via a few plane flights)

— 16th September 2011 —

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Tour day finally arrived! Up just after 5am to do some last minute packing before Ryan (my incredible Production/Stage Manager) arrived at 7am to drive to the airport. A quick stop across town to collect Andy and we were on our way.

Very smooth check-in and flight from Melbourne to Sydney. Checked our bags through to Tamworth and then set up a wonderful wireless world of laptops across the benches in the domestic terminal food court using the free WiFi. We're all so busy and connected right now! A quick lunch and then on to Tamworth, home of country music. I must say our prop guitar in its case looked quite at home going around the luggage carousel...

Picked up our hire car (a brand new gold Pajero, to tie in with Tamworth's golden guitar, I'm sure) and explored the main drag. Saw some funny things along the way (click on photo above to view image gallery).

Decided it would be good to swing by the Capitol Theatre where we are performing on Tuesday. Met the venue manager Peter Ross who is responsible for getting the whole NSW leg of this massive tour off the ground. Looking forward to performing in their state of the art complex in the centre of town!

Jumped in our clever car (Ryan had a conversation with it to set up the iPod) and headed north to Bingara, a sleepy little town full of friendly folk who have a lot of pride in their community. I felt so at home there. We checked in to the Imperial Hotel, located just a block from the The Roxy. Early night for all after a nice roast dinner at the pub.

Slept in the next morning. The boys took it in turns to explore the main street of Bingara on a Saturday morning. People stopped them to say they must be here for the show -"Are we really that Melbourne?!"

My fan club (Mum, Dad, Nan and friend Kate) turned up just as we were heading to the theatre for bump in. Said a quick hello before taking our set, props, costumes and tech equipment (a whole two suitcases) to the theatre. The Roxy is stunning! A wonderfully restored art deco theatre with red seats, a portable stage, roomy dressing rooms, cute candy shop and adjoining vintage cafe.

After a breezy bump-in, we went looking for lunch. We left it too late and were shocked to find that almost everything was closed! Finally found a little grocery shop that were able to make us some sandwiches - phew. Back to the hotel to iron the costumes before heading to the theatre for the first performance of the tour.

A small but very appreciative crowd made it a lovely night. The show went off without a hitch and we were thrilled to share a 'spread' of sponge cake, scones, sandwiches and lamingtons in the cafe with everyone following the performance. People hung around to ask questions and tell stories, which was lovely. So nice having the family there too - especially Nan, who is the inspiration for the play!

Back to the pub for a late dinner (though we probably didn't need it after all that food) before heading to bed, tired but happy.

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Get your pens and paper ready!

— 15th September 2011 —

Had a lovely time running the Introduction to Playwriting Workshop at the Manningham Gallery in Doncaster tonight as part of the Manningham Writer's Festival.

10 budding playwrights turned up to discover practical tips for developing writing skills and clarifying concepts and ideas. We talked about dramatic structure, given circumstances, active and passive dialogue, themes, style and subtext.

It was fun to give an actor's insight into working with text. One of the highlights of the evening was seeing the participants perform cold readings of a short script I had written to demonstrate the use of subtext. Turns out there are some real performers out there in Doncaster!

It was a very inspiring evening. Great to meet new people and to hear their diverse and exciting ideas for the Australian stage.

Rehearsals for The Weather and Your Health

— 12th September 2011 —

Great to have made it to this stage in the lead up to the massive 40 town tour of my play The Weather and Your Health. Today saw the old team back together again to rehearse the show before flying to NSW on Friday 16 Sep. We'll be rehearsing all week in the newly renovated front room at the Fitzroy North Community Church. It's so comfortable, spacious and conveniently located to lots of cafes (we do like the odd coffee and bakery treat to get us through!)