Putting the go in Bendimo!

— 31st October 2011 —

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Yesterday, during a leisurely drive from Colac to the next destination on our tour itinerary, Team Weather stopped off in chilly and charming Daylesford. A spot of vintage op shopping, a long lunch and a drive around the gardens helped to break up this long touring leg. We headed on from Daylesford through Castlemaine to Bendigo and settled into our hotel in the heart of the city.

This morning we stopped at the supermarket for some groceries and various items for the show, including sponge cakes. Yep, we’re on catering duty tonight at the Old Fire Station. Super supper team (with the help of some theatre staff)!

After a smooth bump-in at the theatre, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant across the road. While waiting for our meals, Andy wandered along the street handing out show flyers and Ryan and I took it in turns window-shopping...only, Ryan managed to buy half a shop during his turn!

The show tonight was so delightful. We had a great crowd, a wide demographic, and people who had travelled from Melbourne, the surrounding regions and even as far as NSW to see the show for the first, second or fifth time! There were some big laughs and a few tears during and after the show.

Our sponge cakes and tea were served on the stage area. It was like a family gathering, with stories being told, people writing in the audience response book and everyone hanging around for a while. One couple came along as they had heard the show was about Gilgandra. When they were first married 40 years ago they had closed their eyes and picked a spot on the map to visit. Gilgandra it was! They said the show ‘was Gil’ and thanked us for the memories it brought up.

There were comments made to us about generosity, graciousness, acceptance…and one lady even said to Andrew “I really believe in what you are doing”. Wow. This show does something. Isn’t that exciting?!

We finished what was a gorgeous evening off with some old and new friends at the wonderful Wine Bank on View St. A must-visit if you’re ever in Bendigo.

Love and precipitation in the Otway Ranges

— 29th October 2011 —

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Tonight we had a show in Lavers Hill, which boasts one of the highest average rainfalls for Victoria. As a result, everything is very green. And very wet.

We had a lovely lunch at a local winery before exploring the Otways. Unfortunately the Cape Otway lighthouse was too far, as was the Great Ocean Road. The Tree Top Adventure walk was too long, and it was also much too wet to wander down a track to see the Otway Ranges Waterfalls. Call me a woose, but I just didn’t want to get my feet wet! We eventually settled on driving around the region enjoying the luscious scenery from the comfort of the car. Next time, next time…

We arrived in Lavers Hill, where the rain comes in sideways and every other which way, to find a lovely little hall that has been renovated inside. We unpacked the car (lots of running back and forth with our hands over our screwed up faces because of the rain) and lamented the fact that people would not want to come out in this weather. “What weather?” said our tech guy, Dave. “This is normal for them. They’ll come out, don’t you worry about that!”

With that, we decided to grab a relaxed bite to eat at the café down the road. We settled on scones, as we haven’t had enough of them lately (!!)

After bumping in and having a quick nap under a table ‘backstage’ in the office out the back while Andy perused the books on the shelf in the corner, I got ready for the show. As I warmed up on stage, a few local kids whose parents were setting up the hall looked on and giggled. So cute. Ryan took advantage of the situation by asking them to stuff our programs with flyers for the rest of the tour – brilliant! They complained, but deep down they loved it. Ryan told them so.

It was a fun-loving crowd in cabaret seating tonight, but we managed to hold their attention with a monologue and a radio, even when one of the lighting trees conked out!

After the show, Andy and I drew the show raffle, local raffles, judged a sausage roll making competition and mingled with the audience at their tables and in the supper room. I met some great people and enjoyed wonderful conversations with young, budding writers and experienced Aussie actors alike. You just never know who is in your audience!

Towards the end of the evening, Ryan was forced by the very children he had engaged in slave labour hours previously, to confess his undying love and devotion to me. Andy stepped in as the wedding photographer, and the kids had a riot watching Ryan propose on one knee using flowers from the cabaret tables. Actually, I quite enjoyed it too. May be the closest I ever get!

Right before we left, Andy and I helped the technicians from COPACC who had travelled to support us get their van out of a boggy driveway (Ryan was, conveniently, nowhere to be seen). We then headed back to Colac. What an adventurous and lovely day.

Cool as colac

— 28th October 2011 —

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We started the day with the usual cross-city collection routine…sometimes this feels longer than the actual drive to our destination! A smooth trip to Colac today, I operated the iPod from the passenger seat, Ryan held a skype meeting in the back, and Andy sneezed from the driver’s seat (bad hayfever as soon as we go anywhere near paddocks, which tends to be a regular occurrence).

We arrived at Colac Otways Performing Arts and Culture Centre (COPACC) and enjoyed the bump-in – a great team, lovely facilities and spare time for a tour of the cinema complex and multi-purpose studio which was hosting a woodworks exhibition. Great to see so much happening in one spot. (Loved seeing ‘The Weather and Your Health’ listed next to ‘Real Steel’ on the cinema screenings board in the foyer!)

Had a quick dinner in town with a friend of ours who grew up in Colac. Headed back to the theatre to put my hair in rollers with a little help from Kimbra’s new album – so fun.

Tonight’s performance was another highlight of the tour! A very enthusiastic and vocal audience, great to interact with from stage. One of the lovely COPACC staff members has a particularly booming and infectious laugh. This made everyone else relax and enjoy themselves.

As always, after the show we mingled in the foyer with the locals. Great to see more audience members in the 30 – 40 age bracket. The words ‘magical’ and ‘cute’ were used a number of times, and it was great fun to have audience members quoting parts of the show back to us - they just love those sausage rolls!

Towards the end of the night we were told the show was a breath of fresh air. One lady said, “I’ve had a heavy week at work, but now I feel refreshed, thank you”.

How good is this tour? I just love having the opportunity to spread joy, and reminisce with beautiful, genuine people.

Weather on the wall

— 27th October 2011 —

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What a wonderful time we had in West Gippsland! We drove from Melbourne to Warragul, laughing all the way. Our venue tonight was the West Gippsland Arts Centre – a fabulous space that uses the same stage for the main auditorium as it does for the intimate seating bank located behind the back curtain. We performed in the more intimate setting, which was perfect for The Weather and Your Health.

After bumping in we set out for some dinner. I settled for takeaway pasta thinking there wouldn’t be much else within walking distance of the theatre – how wrong I was. Later I sat in my dressing room eating my cardboard flavoured Risotto, whilst watching enviously as Ryan enjoyed little morsels from the local Tapas bar. I’ll know for next time!

We wrote our names on the wall of fame (lovely red walls covered in years worth of productions recorded in chalk) and got ready in our very comfortable dressing rooms.

The performance tonight felt fresh. I was very much in the moment, enjoying sharing the stories and feeling like the audience was with me every step of the way. We drew the raffle on stage after the show and were glad to be joined by the presenter for a quick thank you and Q&A regarding the meaning of the show title – The Weather and Your Health.  I explained that it is inspired by regional life, and the common exchanges between country folk, “How are you going?” and, “Isn’t it hot?” It was great to have the opportunity to share this with the audience.

In the foyer after the show, people sat around yakking and writing stories in the audience response book - lots of fun spending time with the locals. It was also lovely to discover that one couple had seen the show during the 2009 La Mama season and decided to come along again!

Exchanging in Ballarat

— 26th October 2011 —

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We arrived in Ballarat last night and after having breakfast in our motel rooms, we headed to the Mining Exchange to bump-in…again. We were shown our dressing room – an enormous heritage room complete with imposing paintings of local councillors! We were excited to hear that the CWA would be baking scones on site during the show – the smell wafted out from the backstage kitchen across the stage and towards the audience. Amazing!

The Mining Exchange is a lovely old structure that was once used as a mining exchange, would you believe? It’s been restored and is now used as a multi-purpose arts and events space. The polished cement floor, natural light, brick walls and tin roof make for a stunning venue…and a very interesting acoustic! For the first time on tour, I could hear my lines being sent back to me after they bounced off the walls, floor and ceiling.  It took a little getting used to. (Though, I’ll admit, ‘Coo-ee’ has never sounded so good!)

We had great numbers for today’s matinee – over 100 people were seated on the flat to watch the show. Unfortunately, there was no stage for us to perform on, so it was hard for those sitting beyond the second row to see everything that was happening. A shame, but it didn’t hinder the response – so many lovely stories and compliments being exchanged in the Mining Exchange that afternoon.

Kickin' on to Kyneton

— 25th October 2011 —

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For the first time on this wonderful tour, Team Weather travelled in separate cars! Andy had to make it back to Melbourne for some other commitments (he is juggling so much while on tour – check out his company Thresholdtc), so he decided to take his little Yaris for a spin. This left Ryan and I sitting in our touring vehicle with nothing to talk about on the way to Kyneton. Kidding! As if I’d ever run out of things to say. Actually, in the right mood, Ryan gives me a run for my money.

We grabbed a town sign shot (without Andy, unfortunately) and headed to the Kyneton Town Hall. What a beautiful building! A high, raked stage and stunning old auditorium. Cabaret seating was in place with lovely flowers on each table, and the foyer had been transformed into a typical 1950’s backyard scene, complete with washing line and fan to simulate a country breeze!

It’s always a little difficult performing this simple, quiet show to an audience in cabaret style seating – sightlines and focus are jeopardised. Despite a few distractions, the performance went well. Loved having some familiar faces in the audience tonight!

People had brought their own basket suppers to share at their tables, so Andy and I made our way around the audience nibbling on cheese and fruit – a welcome change to sponge cake!

Had some great conversations with the locals and was pleased to see Andy was, once again, entertaining a table of ladies with ease!

High life in the high country

— 23rd October 2011 —

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Off to Mansfield today for our 22nd show! We stopped on the outskirts of Beechworth to visit Ryan’s family again. Such a lovely afternoon eating gourmet sausages, cupcakes and jumping on the trampoline! It’s been too long… We arrived at the Performing Arts Centre, which from the outside looks like a giant shed. Such amazing facilities inside! A lovely large theatre, large dressing rooms out the back and lovely foyer area. Quite warm again today and, as there wasn’t any cooling in the dressing rooms, we decided to open the louvres and let some hot wind and flies in. Nice. Our performance was part of the High Country Spring Arts Festival which, after chatting with the locals, sounds like a real hoot!

Our show went really well today. The audience was engaged, attentive and seemed to really connect with the play. After a long week this was a great boost for the team. As Andrew and I entered the foyer, there was spontaneous applause. People wanted us to pose for photos and rushed to ask questions about the show. As Ryan packed up in the theatre, he noticed an elderly lady still sitting in her seat. Some ladies walked over to see if she was OK and Ryan heard her saying, “I can’t believe it. I can relate to that whole show. The stories were just beautiful…”

Overall, there was a slightly younger demographic at the show today. This meant that a number of stories told as a response to the show were not necessarily first hand. It’s nice to see people drawing from other things they have heard that have given them the same uplifting feeling as the show…

We moved from the Arts Centre to a gorgeous local café/art gallery/gift shop/best place ever. Run by a beautiful local couple, The Produce Store is a must see when stopping in Mansfield. The meal we shared with the volunteer Arts Festival committee was so delicious, I’m still thinking about it. Andy, Ryan and I kept looking at each other as if to say, “how lucky are we?!” Great conversation and a lovely atmosphere. I can’t wait to visit Mansfield again.

Wonderful Wangaratta

— 22nd October 2011 —

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Our final performance of The Weather and Your Health in the Wangaratta region took place at the St John’s Aged Care Centre in Wangaratta itself. It was a new experience sharing our bump in time with so many other people. We were performing on a portable stage with lighting trees in the centre’s multi-purpose room. Residents shuffled through unapologetically, with some even settling down to watch television or read the paper while we checked audio levels on the radio mic. (Me: ‘Testing one, two… ‘Elderly Resident: ‘I can hear you!’) The show itself was a riot. The audience clapped as I approached the stage, or when they liked a line in the show, or anytime really. One lady in the front row was particularly vocal. I had to imagine that she was a commentator just to stop myself from giggling mid-performance. She was so engaged with the stories on stage that her remarks often echoed my character’s inner-monologue – uncanny.

The St John’s performance, though a huge test of focus and concentration on my part – what, with people falling asleep, mobile phones going off, coughing fits, conversations bubbling away, running commentary from the front row – was incredibly rewarding. As we mingled with the crowd after the show, it struck me that the era we represent in the play is the time that these folk remember best. Not all of them are able to remember what they did last week, but, by George, they remember the war, local dances, going to the pictures and falling in love…

We broke a rule today by mingling with the audience in costume after the show. I made the call to do this, as the audience sometimes find it hard to recognise Andy and I once we have changed our hair and put on modern clothing. It was actually really lovely to move around the room in my costume. Ladies stroked the fabric of my dress, telling me they remembered having ‘cheerful frocks’ just like it!

I sat with a lady named Dorothy, who, when prompted by her daughter in law, shared a number of stories of her time working in the Air Force. Incredible to hear the sorts of the living and working conditions they put up with during the war. She also had some ‘naughty’ stories for me (the best ones!) about sneaking out of camp to buy a cold beer with her friend etc. I don’t know about you, but my mind races as I hear things like this, imagining what it must have been like to live at that time.

There are so many stories out there, and so many people without someone to share them with. I’m so glad we could stop and spend time performing, listening, and generally brightening so many people’s lives today. I looked over to see Andy seated with a group of women, talking and showing interest in their lives. Then I watched Ryan having a good old flirt with one of the residents as she made her way to the dining room. She laughed and blushed as he joked with her. Not everyone can be so at ease in such settings. Once again, I’m so thankful to be on tour with such an amazing team!

We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant along the river in Wangaratta tonight to celebrate our 21st show. (I confiscated Ryan’s phone, zipping it away in my handbag, in order to ensure we had a Facebook free meal. I’m considering running a seminar called ‘Social Living’, actually, for those addicted to social media. I find it very anti-social!) Anyway, it was great a night. Wine and conversation flowed, the meals were lovely, a slimy little frog jumped onto my ankle...you know, just another night out in Wang!

Myrrhee: Miles from nowhere!

— 21st October 2011 —

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Stunning drive on a misty afternoon through the hills to Myrrhee – a place that’s not so much a town, as it is a community hall in the middle of nowhere!

Laughed when we arrived as there was a sign out the front of the hall on the noticeboard saying “Welcome. Hi Donna, Actors’ dinner in fridge. Ta, Carmel”…how good is that?! The boys got their iPhone’s straight out. So quaint!

Very small stage in the hall tonight. Our tech support, Bec had set the space up for us to perform on the flat floor with the audience on the same level. I made the call to shift everything back up onto the stage, re-block some scenes and make do! I much prefer the audience to see what is happening.

Sat out the front of the hall under shelter with my dressing room mirror, putting my hair in curlers – couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a room with no windows when there was such a stunning view outside!

A fun show tonight – though a few distractions! There were barking dogs out the back door, people playing musical chairs, doors opening and closing, some young kids playing in the back row. Oh well! It’s all a good test  of focus!

Was really pleased to find that an elderly lady in the front row had been to see the show at Edi Upper earlier in the week. She hadn’t stopped thinking about the show and decided she needed to see it again. How lovely! She asked where we were going next and I said, “I’m not sure if I want to tell you, Lorraine!” She laughed. So gorgeous.

Another lady told me that I had portrayed her girlhood on stage. Amazing to hear about her life growing up in the region. A group of men at the back of the hall were chatting about the silent male character and one farmer offered me the use of his electric cattle prodder to wake Andy up on stage!

Poor Andy…he does such a great job in that role. It’s actually a difficult task to sit on stage, engaged in something, appearing not to listen, to fall asleep without actually falling asleep, to know all the cues, to sit upstage and not pull focus . A number of people get this, but he usually has to put up with people saying, “I could play that role, gee, you don’t say much” and, “Do you need an understudy? You’re not getting paid for that are ya?” For the record, I love your work Andy. The show would not be the same without the character that you have created. My sincerest thanks for your commitment to The Weather and Your Health.

A little place called Whorouly

— 20th October 2011 —

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Our next stop was the township of Whorouly, outside Wangaratta. Our venue today – a recereation hall/footy clubhouse, complete with trophies, scoreboards and ribbons! Our trusty tech support from Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre, Bec, had already set the lights and seating. All we had to do was set the space and check our sound levels (8 cues on audio CD’s). A beautiful dinner was provided by Ruth, daughter of a lovely couple we had met a couple of nights previously in Edi Upper. We all sat outside and ate, overlooking the manicured footy oval/cricket pitch. Nice day. Great sunshine. Even had time to have a quick go on the monkey bars and swing set out the back. Great view of the hills and paddocks in the distance. So refreshing.

No dressing rooms as such tonight, so I got ready in the ladies room. Accidently knocked a lot of soap out of the dispenser in the middle of my makeup application. A loud crash…Ryan to the rescue! Once audience started arriving, I shifted into the shower section of the ladies room and closed the room off from the general public. Was sort of like getting ready in a locker room. 

Great crowd! Lots of giggles during the food monologue – they just love those home made sausage rolls! Nice to have some young kids in the audience again.

We had a lovely time with everyone in the foyer after the show. Was thrilled to see that the local committee had provided a spread using all of the foods mentioned in the show – “lemon slice with coconut sprinkled on top, sausage rolls, sponge cake, Jatz and dip, tomato sandwiches sprinkled with shredded lettuce…” So cute! Had a really fun time with the locals. Such a good energy in that place.

Feeling good. Don’t want this tour to end!

Greetings from Greta!

— 19th October 2011 —

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We took a drive south of Wangaratta this afternoon to set up our chairs on the stage of the Greta/Hansonville hall. Hot and humid today (that’s right, I’m talkin’ ‘bout the weather…) Our dressing room was on the western side of the building and was absolutely stifling – found myself longing for the breeze of the outdoor dressing room in Edi Upper the night before!

The Greta hall is located in the local football grounds. After bumping in we had dinner with Sandy, a local, and her two children. The youngest had trouble remembering my name and when I prompted him (“It starts with the letter ‘B’”), his face lit up and he exclaimed, “Bison!” Needless to say, Andy and Ryan had great fun teasing me for the rest of the evening. Must send that little boy my Reception: The Musical! video clip…

The performance itself was a little challenging. Not sure if it was the carpeted stage, the fidgeting in the front row or if I was just a little distracted. The audience really warmed up by the end of the show and I enjoyed chatting with the locals over a supper that was provided by donation as a fundraiser for the community.

People approached Andy and I to talk about the show, but a number of them also shared significant memories that were sparked by the performance. One lady was reminded that it was 15yrs before her husband told her that he always knew he would marry her. Another shared her story of becoming a part of the local community. She had to find her own voice and be pro-active as it was a tight knit group of people. She has lived in the area for 32 years – they almost consider her a local.

Two ladies were quite affected by the silent male character and discussed the difference between men and women’s roles in their time. Some of the children in the audience told me that they were going to ask their parents what it was like when they were growing up. Aiden, the same young man who had called me ‘Bison’ said, “Yeah, all I know is that my dad didn’t even have a Nintendo DS when he was a kid”  How exciting to hear that the show is sparking conversation between generations.

Our lucky raffle winner told me how excited she was to win and that she will always remember the show. It’s pretty special to have someone say that…

Hot and tired, we drove home on the dusty roads to Wangaratta. Out here, on tour, a good shower at the end of the day is the most beautiful thing!

Up and upper!

— 18th October 2011 —

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Arrived in Wangaratta for a week in apartment-style accommodation. How luxurious! Luck of the draw resulted in me getting the renovated upstairs apartment…what can I say? Though we stay in Wangaratta, we are taking the show out to a different town each day this week. Our first stop on this leg of the tour was the ‘town’ of Edi Upper (pronounced Ee-dye). No shops, no houses in sight, no population - just a hall on the side of a very nice hill. This was such a special stop that I chose to write about it on my column on Aussietheatre.com

My article goes something like this:
"The thing is, there exists in the world places that send your GPS or Google maps into a bit of a tizz. Yep, little pockets located at the base of green rolling hills, places that have no population, places that are more ‘tin shed and tennis court’ than ‘town’. That’s the sort of place you want to take a theatre production, isn’t it? 
 
Well, it’s always been a dream of mine and earlier this week, it came true. My team and I had the delightful experience of performing for the community of Edi Upper. Located about 30mins south of Wangaratta, Victoria, our 16th stop on this 40 show regional tour for my play The Weather and Your Health was something special.
 
After taking a few wrong turns – finding ourselves at the back of someone’s farm, being chased by big black dogs - we ventured around the other side of the hill and were blown away by the location of our venue for that night. Nestled on a slope and surrounded by hills and green pastures, the Edi Upper Community Hall is home to decades of history and activity for the region. 
 
We bumped in our set (those trusty 5 chairs) and familiarised ourselves with the small stage while the tech crew from Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre focused the lighting. An extension had been used to make the stage a little bigger. It was slightly different in height to the rest, so a piece of carpet was used to cover the stage…this was then slightly bigger than the stage itself, so tape was used to mark the boundary of the actual stage to ensure we didn’t walk straight off the edge - ingenious! 
 
We had considered driving back to Wangaratta for dinner, as there were literally no options for food in the area. As I mentioned before, Edi Upper is not a town, but a name for the valley and surrounds. Not a shop in sight. Thankfully a few of the ladies from the local hall committee had prepared dinner for us: a tray of lasagne, potato bake, pumpkin risotto and Venison stew. Couldn’t decide, so I had three dinners. Yes, I did.
 
One of the many highlights of this stop was being shown our outdoor dressing room/tent. Located behind the hall, it consisted of a truck tarp that had been tied around the awning of the building. Complete with mirror, table and lace cloth, Persian rug, and flowers on a stand, it was one of the cutest things I have ever seen. I think the presenter was concerned that we would be horrified, but Andrew Dodds (Actor), Ryan Barwood (Production Manager) and I all thought it was fabulous! I can’t tell you how exciting it was to get ready in that space. My heart leapt as I took in the sound of the utes and buses arriving, the ‘walls’ flapping in the breeze, the sun setting over the hill and peeking through the gaps in the tarp…
 
I found myself marvelling at how much some people must miss out on by demanding certain levels of comfort. If we were anything like those outlandish stars you hear about who request only red M&M’s and their water at a certain temperature, well, we wouldn’t be touring throughout regional Victoria for a start, but we’d also be missing out on real life and the opportunity to converse with these down to earth, generous and sometimes wild characters. Really, that’s the message of my play. My Nan was poor and grew up in a simpler time. Things were tough, but they made do. They soldiered on and looked at what they had rather than what they lacked. Make the most of what you’ve got. After all, that’s where creativity is born.
 
I came out on stage to see a packed hall. Almost 120 people had piled in to experience a night at the theatre! We had 2 year olds and 90 year olds, men and women, theatre lovers and first timers. The performance bubbled along as the audience giggled and gasped at the stories being told on that little, uneven and creaky stage. 
 
After the show and raffle we moved into the supper room. I must have looked shocked as I took in the five tables laden with food because a gentleman next to me laughed and said, “You’re in the country now. This is how we do things!” 
 
The team collected more stories and lovely responses to the play as we nibbled on slice, cake and home made sausage rolls. Towards the end of the night, a lady with two cochlear implants approached me to say that she spends her life trying to work out what people are saying, but she heard every word I had said on stage. She thanked me for my facial expressions and stories. I can’t thank her enough for making the long hours, hard work, and years of planning worthwhile."
A truly memorable evening in a stunning part of the world with beautiful people. I hope to visit Edi Upper again soon!

Hey hey, it's Heywood!

— 14th October 2011 —

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Team breakfast in my studio apartment, followed by a spot of window shopping (well, hold on, I did buy a couple of postcards) and coffee with Greg Diamantis from Warrnambool Entertainment Centre. It was lovely to be able to thank him for a great week of performances.

 

We drove across to Thunder Point so that Ryan could see the place Andrew and I had been jogging earlier in the week. Had a great time listening to the waves crash against the rocks, enjoying the sunshine and posing for the camera.

 

Outside Warrnambool we decided to turn off and drive through the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. So glad we did! Saw flourishing wetlands, rocky hillsides...and emus! (Detours like this make the tour feel like a trip away with friends. I just love my team). We continued west to the small town of Heywood, enjoying more interesting sights along the way…

 

Arrived at the Heywood Community Hall and, after a bit of fiddling with the audio system, we set our levels and completed our bump in. Andrew and I ducked down to the local bakery and milk bar for some snacks. We spruiked along the way (garnering an additional 4 ticket sales! Go team!). I asked the lady making the sandwiches at the milk bar where we should have dinner in Heywood before the show. She looked at me and said, "Portland". Classic.

 

We took her advice and drove 15min south to Portland. Andrew had a nap in the back of the car while Ryan and I explored the food options. I wish we'd had more time to explore the town, but we managed to catch a glimpse of the wood chip export plant located down on the water. Massive industry for the town.

 

On the road back to Heywood Ryan almost ran over some sort of 'marsupial', though I think it was just a rat. We got ready backstage, swatting flies the whole time - felt like summer in that town! (Might upload a little video taken backstage...)

 

A solid performance, with a responsive audience. The presenter had engaged a local Red Cross group to provide supper plates, which were available for the audience in the foyer by a donation – everybody loves a good cause! The raffle again was a great success, an amazing icebreaker with huge laughs. I discovered one couple were friends of a friend from Dubbo. Turns out they were at the show due to some coaxing from my pal. They ended up winning the raffle, so just as well!

 

Interesting to note that many people commented on the relationship between the two characters tonight. Audiences latch on to different aspects of the show each night. I love answering their questions and hearing what they have to say in the foyer. A great night learning about local history and discussing what it means to be a local.

 

We decided to share the drive back to Melbourne that night instead of staying in Heywood, as the flies had made their way into our motel rooms as well! I drove to Warrnambool where we stopped at Woolies and stocked up on buns, salad and energy drinks. The boys took it in turns sleeping in the back the rest of the way while I sat up front with my eyes peeled for Kangaroos. Home at 3am. Own bed. So worth it.

our great ocean adventure - part IV

— 13th October 2011 —

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Up early for a radio interview this morning with Greg from Warrnambool Entertainment Centre and the local ABC radio presenter. We enjoyed a team breakfast in the apartment, went for a run along the coast (well, Andy and I. Ryan insists that he prefers the gym...school kids and all) and got ready for our show in the big smoke - Warrnambool!

 

We performed in the Anderson Theatre at Brauer College, as the Entertainment Centre is under renovation. As I walked out on stage a lady in the front row said "Hello!". Umm...OK. A lovely show. One lady in the foyer afterwards said, "You could've heard a pin drop" and I replied, "Did you, because a bobby pin fell out of my hair tonight!". It was interesting to note that a number of people were quite moved by the stories and relationship between the characters tonight. In the lead up to this tour people told me that I’d be exhausted and sick of the show because we are doing it so many times – I’d like to say that, on the contrary, every single performance is exciting because the energy from the audience is different. I walk out onto a new stage each day and face a new group of people. I may tell the same stories and play the lines the same way, but the nature of live theatre is such that each performance is fresh. I love what I’m learning on this tour.

 

Thanks to the team at Warrnambool Entertainment Centre for a great week. We loved working with you and hope to visit again soon!

our great ocean adventure - part III

— 12th October 2011 —

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The day was quickly turning into another admin fest and I was in need of a water view, so when Ryan went to the INDOOR gym I took the car and drove to Thunder Point. I ran OUTDOORS (in my lovely new joggers) along the coastline in the sunshine - bliss! We did a show in Mortlake tonight. Yet another gorgeous little space to perform in. My first time on a raked stage (higher at the back and sloping downwards).

 

We filled almost every seat in the venue and had a great time chatting with a local school drama group in the foyer over...more sponge cake! Some of the responses from elderly audience members were beautiful. Some people are very keen for me to continue presenting Australian stories - there is certainly plenty of material out there. It's very evident that not much professional theatre comes through these parts, so it was lovely to have an opportunity to perform here as they're such an appreciative, bubbly and gorgeous lot.

 

Signed a few posters in the kitchen while things were being packed up in the hall. Lots of laughs on the way home. This tour is good for my soul!

Our great ocean adventure - Part II

— 11th October 2011 —

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Our schedule while in Warrnambool was a performance at 8pm each night, which allowed us time to work, rest or play through the day. Ryan and I were sharing an apartment ("Honey, I'm home" sort of thing) and spent most of the day catching up on general admin. Andy went shopping and explored the local art gallery - very touristy!

That night we performed in the town of Camperdown at the Theatre Royal - a stunning old theatre/mechanics hall. We had packed our own dinner but had no way of heating it, so we asked the cafe across the road if we could buy treats in exchange for the use of their microwave. We ended up spending over $60 there because everything looked so delicious! Haha. The boys shared cookies in the dressing room while I got ready. We performed a really solid show for a lovely attentive audience while Ryan operated the sound and lights from a cage in the wings - odd, but very funny. ("Yeah, whatever, Ryan. Get back in your cage.")

Huge servings of sponge cake and fascinating conversation at the back of the hall after the show. Hope to return to the community in future for workshops and performances. Just lovely.

Our great ocean adventure - Part I

— 10th October 2011 —

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As a girl from inland NSW, it's always nice to see water, so our week performing along the coast of South West Victoria was a real treat. Think ocean views, walking tracks along the coast, green rolling hills…and lots of cows! (Ryan: “Look at them all lined up! How do they know?!”)

 

Our first stop was Port Fairy. The old Lecture Hall is like something from a picture book – red seats and a small stage framed by red drapes. The team from Warrnambool Entertainment Centre were on hand to assist with the bump in and were very welcoming from the word go. As there was no landline in the building, I popped down the road to the meeting room of the local information centre to do a phone interview on ABC Statewide Drive – that was fun.

 

We drove back to Warrnambool for supplies (shamelessly handed out flyers to the Woolies checkout chick and those in the line behind us) and a quick dinner at our accommodation. Ryan and I were sharing a two-bedroom apartment for the first few days – lots of making each other cups of tea.

 

Trekked back through the rolling hills to Port Fairy for a really fun performance. I almost got the giggles during one section as a lady in the front row was hooting with laughter. Couldn’t look in that direction for a while. Another test of focus came during the middle of the show when the town alarm went off. Understandably, the audience were a little distracted! Andrew and I ate jam roll and sponge cake with the audience after the show and had a lovely time hearing more about life in the 1940’s and 50’s. A delight.

From Kerang to the border

— 7th October 2011 —

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Checked into the hotel in Kerang to find a helicopter parked behind my room - that's interesting. Enjoyed a nice pub meal with the boys in town - lots of laughs, as always. I'm very thankful that the team gets along so well. Almost feels like a holiday! (Then I remember how many shows we have to go...nope, I still love it!)

Up the next morning and off to the Kerang Memorial Hall for another bump in with the staff from the Swan Hill Performing Arts Centre. We had to get creative with the lighting as facilities were a bit limited, but that's all part of the touring game. The performance went off without a hitch and after drawing the raffle on stage in costume, Andy and I had a chance to meet with some of the audience members. Was lovely to find that one lady had taught two of our fellow CSU graduates when they were at school in Kerang. Small world.

We packed the car and headed to Shepparton for the night. Ryan has toured this area before and was able to recommend a lovely restaurant in town...so important to have a change from the trusty old pub meal! We jumped in the car the next morning and drove to Beechworth to visit Ryan's family. It's such a lovely little town. We had a nice time wandering past the shops, stopping at the famous bakery and honey shop and picking up some treats from the toy shop for Ryan's neice and nephew. The Barwood clan are just lovely. We enjoyed a warm welcome, relaxed conversation, leisurely lunch and grand tour of Marg and John's beautiful home (I even had a nap on one of the spare beds - very comfy. Dribble worthy in fact! Sorry Marg.)

Headed north to Wodonga and bumped in at the multi-purpose hall (I've never performed under a basketball ring before) at Victory Lutheran College on the outskirts of town (paddocks and cattle outside the dressing room window etc). We had a good crowd booked in and were pleased that the show had been marketed as part of Victorian Seniors Week. I knew I had a few friends in the audience from Dubbo and my uni days at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga, but I was still shocked to hear a familiar laugh from the stage during the show. Due to the completely blacked out space and the position of the lights, I was unable to see a single audience member during the performance - a little disconcerting for a character that interacts with their audience. I couldn't be sure it was who I thought it was until I opened a card and flowers in my dressing room after the show. My sister and about 6 other family members from her husband's side were in the audience to support me - so exciting! Hugs all round, Ryan's Dad won the raffle, a great encourager from Dubbo, Kerrie Phipps, filmed a quick video about the tour, Andy and I caught up with our old college friends - it was just a hoot!

Back to Melbourne for a quick stop and repack before the Warrnambool week...I bags the washing machine!

Andy's Corner - News from the Road

— 5th October 2011 —

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Andrew Dodds (actor, writer and producer) shares his experiences of touring with The Weather and Your Health:

"On the Victorian side of the Murray River lies the picturesque town of Robinvale, a beautiful town that serves as a hub for the fruit farms and vineyards of the area. From within the Outlander, Bethany, Ryan, and I were able to spy the well-maintained homesteads as we came into the town, despite the best efforts of the overcasts skies, which ominously threatened to keep such beauty hidden.

For myself, today was a day of familiar faces, as I happened to know the Presenter for the Swan Hill Performing Arts Centre, Mr. Adrian Corbett. I had performed with Adrian before and was excited to congratulate him in person on his appointment as Director of Performing Arts for the Swan Hill Rural City Council.

Due to maintenance being carried out in the small theatre space at the Robinvale venue ‘The Weather And Your Health’ had to be moved onto the main stage, which was a delightful twist of fate to say the least, as the main stage area closely resembles the main stage at the St. Martin’s Youth Theatre in South Yarra.

There are a couple of things you keep an eye and ear out for on regional tours, and high upon this list would have to be buses. Buses are a marvelous automotive invention that bring a mass of people from point a to your play, and when I could hear one making its way up to the Robinvale theatre, I must admit I did break out into smile.
Oh, how I love buses.

At the end of each play we hold a raffle in the foyer, where people stand a chance to win a gift pack in the theme of the play. This generally breaks the ice between the audience members and Beth and myself, and serves to spark conversations and storytelling from the audience. I think that is a real feature of The Weather And Your Health, as it sheds light on not just on an era gone by but on the tradition of storytelling itself, and many people love passing on moments from their lives that the play has helped bring into focus.

In the foyer I got to catch up with Adrian, his partner Nathan, and Fairfax Festival’s Young Artist in Residence Caitlyn Barclay, and hear about some of the wonderful things that are in the works for the Swan Hill region, with the Fairfax Festival being one of them.

The Fairfax Festival is a wonderful event, which sees young people getting involved in making new theatre and learning techniques to help them in this process. Running for the past 14 years, the Festival has helped launch the careers of many performing artists and enriched the lives of many. All the very best with the Festival. We look forward to hearing about its imminent success."

P.S. If you would like to keep up to date with the Swan Hill Performing Arts Program you can:

Check out their website
Visit their Facebook page, or
View their Twitter feed

Welcome to Underbool

— 4th October 2011 —

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Had an amazing time in the Walpeup Shire today. Drove from Ouyen (where we were staying) to Underbool - a small community of "between 120 and 200 people, dependin' on who you're askin'". Arrived in town at the same time as the Mobile Library service from Mildura. This was almost too much for Ryan who is a fan of the ABC series 'The Librarians'. We witnessed the truck being set up and had a private tour of the facilities. Really incredible, and so lovely to see locals wandering down to the park to return their books and DVD's on time.

Bought a sandwich at the Milk Bar and came across the Weekly Times article that I had done an interview for a few weeks back. Bought a few copies and headed to the park to read, enjoy the sunshine and have a quick go on the swings.

Set up back at the Town Hall was smooth, loved hearing the ladies yabbering away in the kitchen as I got ready backstage for a performance for just over half the town! Ryan and Andy were the favourites, being offered scones and cups of tea before anyone else was allowed to touch the supper! A large group was in for lunch prior to the show, which was a great idea. I came out onstage to find that all the audience members were eating lollipops and chatting (one gentleman in the front row was so engrossed in conversation that he took a moment to realise that I was on stage...I had to wait for him to stop talking before I could deliver the opening monologue!) The lights tripped half way through the show, leaving the stage and hall in darkness, but the show must go on! I took a moment to dance on the spot (it tied in with the story) while the problem was quickly rectified.

The foyer after the performance was buzzing with people chatting about their own memories and the way that they could relate to the show. We had such fun with the locals joking about some of the town names in the Shire - Chinkapook (a bit like chicken poop), Manangatang, Torrita, Boinka. There's gotta be a show in that...

A very special stop. We left Underbool much richer (and much more full) than when we had arrived. Staying in Euston at a resort on the Murray River tonight. Can't wait!

Here is a link to a tour entry that I wrote about the Underbool performance for aussietheatre.com