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On the road again – Let the adventures begin!

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The national tour of The Weather and Your Health is well and truly underway! Bethany Simons fills us in on the adventures of Team Weather during their first week out on the road for 2012…

Bethany Simons 9

Bethany Simons and Daniel Mottau

There’s something magical about packing a production into the back of an X-trail and heading west on the freeway. Based in the bustling metropolis of Horsham, the first week of our national tour was spent performing The Weather and Your Health for communities in the Wimmera region.

An exciting element of this leg of the tour was the range of venues and audiences that we came across. From Performing Arts Centres to Community Halls and Retirement Homes, this show in a suitcase has been everywhere, man!

Our first stop was the Wesley Performing Arts Centre. Housed in an old church building near the centre of Horsham, the stage features a large, colourful pipe organ. It’s beautiful. So, we covered it with a black curtain and got on with our bump in…

Opening night of the tour – a few butterflies in the dressing room, especially for the lovely Daniel Mottau who has stepped in as the newest member of our small cast of two. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew Dodds for his four-year stint with the production in the role of He. I’ll miss having you on stage, Andy, but am so thankful for all of the wonderful memories – from day one back in the drama studio, to the unforgettable regional tour at the end of 2011.

After the performance in Horsham we had a lovely time meeting the locals, hearing their stories of life back in the 40’s and 50’s and reminiscing about how much things have changed for young people since then.

Bethany Simons

In Nhill under a canopy of lights

Our time with the community of Nhill on Tuesday evening was delightful. Under a canopy of fairy lights, the audience were seated at cabaret tables adorned with fresh flowers, wine and snacks. Our view from the stage has never been so festive – plus, those twinkle lights gave a sense of reality to my character’s line, “look at the stars”!

Sometimes audiences are smaller than you may hope or plan for. For whatever reason, there just weren’t many people in the audience for our matinee in Horsham on Wednesday. As a performer it can be challenging to deliver a quality performance in such a situation, but I made a conscious decision to give my best for them, as they deserve it just as much as a full house does. I’m pleased to say that we were blessed with a generous crowd. Though small in number, they didn’t hold back in their responses – laughing, gasping and even speaking aloud in all the right places!

The next morning Team Weather packed their suitcases and trusty stack of chairs into the back of the X-trail and hit the road, bound for the township of Dimboola.

That day’s show was truly ‘bare bones’. No lighting, no staging, no official dressing rooms or FOH staff (though my wonderful Tour Manager, Ryan Barwood, was in his element handing out programs, raffle tickets, and flirting with the elderly residents!) Using my laptop as a mirror, Daniel and I got ready in a meeting room and then performed the show in the Recreation Room of the Day Centre at the Dimboola Hospital.

Bethany Simons

An impromptu performance of On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady had the audience smiling from ear to ear!

After the show, Daniel and I were encouraged/forced to demonstrate our singing ability for the residents. Following a spontaneous duet of Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady, our new friends erupted with applause. A little entertainment goes a long, long way…

On the road to Stawell the next day we passed a giant Koala. We make a point of stopping and capturing things like that – giant plastic dinosaurs, model trains, windmills. It keeps our time on the road interesting. It’s like Ryan says, “at least we have fun!”

And we do. The whole week has been a hoot, and the response to the show has, once again, been delightful. I consider it an absolute privilege to share my Nan’s stories with people who appreciate it so much.

The audience at Eventide Homes in Stawell were beautiful. It’s a very special thing to witness elderly people’s faces light up with recognition as they listen to the stories being told. I realise time and again that my Nan’s story is universal. People see their own, often simple, lives being validated on stage. That’s special.

Collecting audience responses and memories in a book after the performance – partly for inspiration for future projects, and partly as a record of each community that we visit – an elderly resident in Stawell said, “Thank You. You don’t know, but a lot of us will be thinking about this tonight…”

Our final stop was the Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Home in Horsham. A third of the audience were over 90 years of age, and we were thrilled to find that three women in the audience were 101 years old!

Our final stop was the Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Home in Horsham. A third of the audience were over 90 years of age, and we were thrilled to find that three women in the audience were 101 years old! The audience clapped mid-performance, giggled and craned their necks to see everything that was going on.

During our standard mingle session after the performance I spoke with Fanny, who will be 102 later this year. Her love of life and cheeky nature were infectious. She draws people to her and has so much wisdom to share. I’ll never forget holding her hand and hearing her say, with much animation, “Life is what you make it. Always keep your thoughts high. Be busy. Be happy. Love what you do!”

I love what I do!

Bethany and the team need a little bit of help to ensure that they can finish what they have started. If you are able to show your support for the national tour of The Weather and Your Health, visit the Pozible project page and make a pledge today! You’ll be a part of something very special indeed.

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Bethany has written 41 articles on AussieTheatre
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