Alaine Beek is a local screenwriter and performer who lives and works in Wyndham and is part of Wyndham Cultural Centre’s Ghost Light series. She is the founder of Essence Productions, an immersive live theatre company based in the west and volunteers as the Artistic Director of Wyndham Theatre Company.
Who is Alaine Beek? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as an artist.
I emigrated to Australia from Scotland with my family in 1971. For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in music, writing, and performance. I have worked professionally as a playwright, actor and musician for over 20 years. Essentially I’m a story teller. Even when I performed with my band Lighthouse, much of our original songs had a story to them. Playwrighting is the most treasured work I do. I love to transform a piece from page to stage and work on a play until it becomes a live performance. The whole workshop development is like being a kid in a candy store for me. I have a business degree as my parents wanted me to get a ‘proper job’. But really I’ve always been learning about theatre, writing – surrounding myself by super talented people and learning from them. Even now I feel I’m learning all the time and I love it. I’ve done a number of plays that have won awards some toured professionally. I have four plays on the go right now.
What is your connection to Wyndham and how does it inspire you and your work?
When I came to Australia my family lived in Hoppers Crossing. We were the first house in the street and there was no plaza. I went to high school here then moved away for many years but I returned with my husband Bart and my son in 2001. This will always be our home. We love the community feel, the outer city feel. As I base all of my work on real stories much of them have been born in Wyndham. My two plays What Was That and Down to Earth that I performed at Werribee Park is based on local history connected to the Chirnside family. Performing at Werribee Park has been so incredibly inspirational. It reflects a really interesting period in history and I love stories that come out of the ‘upstairs downstairs’ lifestyle. I’m currently working on a play The Scrunch Test which is essentially reflects my own weird and wonderful family who came out from Scotland to live in the West of Melbourne. I love the cultural centre as a beautiful performance space that I feel Wyndham is lucky to have.
You founded Essence Productions in 2003 and you also volunteer as the Artistic Director of Wyndham Theatre Company. Can you tell us more about these art organisations and how they have contributed to Wyndham’s community and arts environment?
Every community needs live performance and both organisations offer so much to the locals. Essence Productions has 12 professional actors and a number of crew all of whom have been with me for many years on and off stage. My constant shows are the two that run each weekend all year round at Werribee Park. I have run a Drama Club at Werribee Secondary College for the past 7 years which I have loved. My aim is to offer more drama opportunities for youth in Wyndham. Many ex-students from Werribee Secondary have graduated to join working backstage with me at Werribee Park and have also gotten involved in Wyndham Theatre Company. The aim is to give them a pathway so the High School drama performances they’ve been involved in continues in their youth. It’s about giving them opportunities. Some of my plays have been launched here at the Wyndham Cultural Centre which is a fantastic opportunity for my team and for me as a local playwright.
Wyndham Theatre Company is growing in exciting ways and if not for COVID-19 would have had a fantastic year beginning with the program, Short Works. Short Works in its third year which performs selected original short plays. We had an amazing line up this year. I’m proud to say it would have included my own monologue A Good Coffee which won major awards at this year’s Arkfest. Community theatre is essential for any community. It creates a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging in an exciting and supportive environment. You can be involved young and old, from all different backgrounds and cultures and as a community our aim is to encourage locals to experience, enjoy and be super proud of our local work. It’s about giving opportunities.
What do you hope to communicate through your work?
Real human truthful stories, warts and all. I want my work to give a different perspective, to challenge thinking, entertain and take people on a journey. These are all my aims. I encourage ongoing development, and to love the process. I want my audiences to be fully engaged in the performances. My aim this year was to start a program Say it Out Loud which would target youth to have their work developed collaboratively and ultimately performed. A major aim of the program is to encourage resilience and creative thinking.
How has the current COVID-19 situation, if at all, affected your work? What are your fears and hopes throughout this time?
Covid-19 has been terrible for my work and all performing arts. I had to cancel all my shows at Werribee Park and The Scrunch Test has been postponed from the Wyndham Cultural Centre, and shows with Wyndham Theatre Company cancelled. My fear is how long it’s going to take to bring back audiences to performance space, regardless of what that space is. I also worry that the amazing following that I’ve built up over so many years will fade away. If anything I feel through COVID-19 I have been more creative and productive than any other time in the past. I’ve honed down into the things I love, what I’m skilled at and discovered that Zoom is a brilliant tool for script development. I have four plays I’m working on right now. I’m also developing my social media and website so I can eventually hit the ground running. I’m also working on plans to work more with youth next year. I’m seeking out potential performance spaces that will allow for staggered, or spaced audiences.