On the Couch with Alaine Beek

Alaine Beek AAR On the CouchWho is Alaine Beek?
Scottish born and bred. Young at heart. I’ve always been creative but Mum and Dad convinced me to do a business degree so I can get a ‘proper job.  But I’ve never stopped creating – and that has morphed into writing and producing plays. I think the business degree helped me think practically as well as creatively. I have great tenacity. I never give up. This has helped me in the arts world where support knockbacks are supremely common.

I’m an optimist but also realistic. Being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 rocked me and my challenge was to mentally get strong again and not wallow in self-pity.  There’s a lot of that in Jack and Millie – both extremes. I also love cheese, wine, movies, being rugged up through chilly nights.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Work more with youth. I discovered my love of working with youth in 2014 through a drama club I ran. I think in another life I could have been a high school drama teacher. My students were amazing – from very diverse backgrounds, honest opinions, intelligence and courage. I’m sure they don’t realise I learnt as much from them as they did from me.

There are a lot of things I wish were better now, but I feel so lucky that anything that I say I should have done differently could have taken me on a different path. I have very few regrets and lots of lessons learnt from both achievements and mistakes.

Who inspires you and why?
Right now – it’s Nigel Sutton my director. I’ve known him for many years. I met him at an IMTAL conference (International Museum Theatre Alliance) where I was doing a small presentation and he was this light bulb in the front row. We got to know each other over the five days. On the last day I couldn’t find him but then saw him on stage at Fed Square being introduced as the keynote speaker for the whole conference – I had no idea. So humble and brilliant. He nearly didn’t direct Jack and Millie. He’d just gone through chemo for prostate cancer and it was all too raw, but then he reread the script, decided he loved it, and jumped in. So glad he did.  His courage, his vision, honesty, integrity and creative genius inspires me.

I also think Jacinda Ardern is so refreshing, earthy and smart as New Zealand’s PM. I am inspired by her courage to speak up about getting more real actions done to protect indigenous children from abuse. I am very skeptical of tokenism and I think we first world citizens are becoming masters at it, whilst not really doing a whole lot to make actual change.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Following from my last note – Stop tokenism. Or at least match it with much bigger actions that make real change. Small gestures ARE important to start building connections but there’s a point where we have to do more. Give up something. We’re not good at being prepared to give up anything to help others. We buy into the media narrative that we are all entitled to more and have become constant whingers. I’d like us all to take responsibility for everything we buy, use, waste.

I remember arguing with someone who was going on about signing a petition so that workers wagers were fairer overseas in third world countries. Good cause, but I think I made the poor man feel very uncomfortable as I asked if he is then prepared to pay more for a new shirt, or a cup of coffee – because that’s the only way we can make a difference, our purchasing power. We need to be prepared to give up something.

I’d build more usable performance spaces that artists could afford to hire and actually make some decent money through ticket sales. Give us the space, we’ll do the rest. I’d also make everyone who owns a pet have to have a pet license.  So you can’t put a fish in a bowl or a bird in a little cage or a dog locked up in a small space that is never walked because the owners are ‘too busy’, etc.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I’ve got to say Edinburgh, where I grew up as a child. When I went back in 2012 I braced myself that it wouldn’t be as good as I remember, but it was better. The history, the buildings, the cold weather, the venues, people.  It always feels like home. It’ll be a long time before we can go back there, so we’re looking forward to exploring Victoria.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
A trip to Yarraville to enjoy the many great cafes, a dinner out then to visit Sun theatre (and have one of their giant ice creams), then the bookshop next door – always a must for all three, in any order, in the one trip. Melbourne city and all it’s gorgeous alleyways. Visit the markets (South, Prahran or Vic) for their atmosphere, colour and diverse offer of just about everything. Werribee Park – up till COVID-19 I had been doing shows there each weekend for 17 years. I never take it for granted. The historic mansion is magnificent and the gardens are stunning, relaxing, beautiful.

What are you currently reading?
Apart from the Jack and Millie script, I’ve started reading The New Philistines – about the relentless politicization of the arts. It states contemporary art is obsessed with the politics of identity and basically becoming predictable and soulless. Just finished Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey.

What are you currently listening to?
My husband tapping on his keyboard next to me, my dog Stella at our feet huffing away. When I’m out and about or at the gym it’s 774 ABC Melbourne or 621 Radio National.

Happiness is?
Getting up every morning with a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Also creating with my super talented, hardworking, hilarious, and professional team. Such a happy place to be in. I keep saying let’s all put in to build a dedicated nursing home for us that we live in complete with rehearsal spaces performance spaces and nursing care. They laugh… but I’m serious.

What does the future hold for you?
At the time of writing, I have literally no idea. I have five full plays that could be produced (and one that is being developed into a full screenplay) but right now with COVID-19 restrictions there are no definite plans. The way the dominoes fell for me through COVID-19 is that all my work stopped. My weekly shows at Werribee Park, my youth drama group, my new play The Scrunch Test that was going to be on at the Wyndham Cultural Centre – all stopped/cancelled.

Everything Essence has is going into Jack and Millie so beyond that there’s nothing in the bucket. That’s not a gloom and doom story. Another door will open. I’m looking at setting up Saltwater as a regular summer performance space.

I’d love to write a new play about the life of my friend, Josh, who has an aboriginal father and a Scottish mother. Unlike the rest of his family, he was born white. I want to make a trip with him to Wangaratta to meet his family and start with; “talk to me”. It’d be a bit terrifying for me, but challenging and exciting as it would be their story. That’s what I’d want to do in the future.

Alaine has written and stars in the world premiere of Jack and Millie – which will be presented by Essence Productions at the Saltwater Community Centre, Point Cook from 17 February 2021. For more information, visit: www.essenceproductions.com.au for details.

Image: Alaine Beek (supplied)