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Today’s forecast: It’s raining Jen

What do you do when you have a dream that just won’t go away? How brave do you have to be to take the plunge? Long-time and much-loved ABC weather presenter Jenny Woodward has always loved the stage … but this year pushed herself to write and perform her own show – Weathering Well. Here she tells of overcoming her doubts and just making it happen.

“Be careful what you wish for”.

For some time I had been suggesting enthusiastically to my son Alex, an actor and producer, that he should give me a part in one of his musical productions. Eventually after a considerable bit of nagging – or role reversal – as I like to call it, he said: “I’ve got a part for you. Do you really want it?” Well yes I do even though the prospect of acting and singing on stage was terrifying. But I also knew it would be exciting and potentially exhilarating. And after the two-week run, I was hooked again.

I started my working life as an actor, after doing a three-year drama course in Toowoomba after leaving school. Performing in front of a live audience gives immediate feedback. After 40 years in TV, I wanted to flirt with the stage again and see how it felt – was it just as thrilling as I remembered?

After the musical experience I knew I wanted more. But what vehicle could I use?

There’s not much call for an inexperienced, older female weather presenter on stage. I decided the only way to make it happen was to do it myself.

Could I take the talk that I gave to schools, community clubs and aged care homes and use that as a basis for a proper show with theatrical flourishes and live music? I wanted it to still be me on stage, but I wanted it to be a theatrical experience for the audience. The theatrical autobiography Weathering Well was born – thanks Jane Milburn for the classification!

Rehearsals: Wrangling the butcher’s paper. L to R: Margaret Burrows, Bridget Boyle, Jake Bristow, Luke Volker, Jenny

Alex thought it would work and he agreed to produce it for me. Thank heavens, as I had no idea about all of the elements – creative, technical and logistical – we would need to create a live show that could be performed on any stage in the state from a tent at the Isisford Sheep and Wool Show to the big room at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

The show was a long time in the making, from developing a foundation script with Karen Berkman to zoom chats through 2020 with director Bridget Boyle and video creator Nathan Sibthorpe.

Finally in 2021, we were able to get into a rehearsal room.  We had the old butcher’s paper on the floor, moving segments around into a logical flow and allocating photos and vision and the musical soundscape created by Luke Volker. I have been so fortunate to have had such an amazing team working with me to create the show.  They are some of the state’s best and it shows in the final product.   

All the while I had to keep my anxieties at bay and hope that I wasn’t biting off more than I could chew. As tickets sales grew and bookings throughout regional Queensland were locked in, I knew there was no going back – I just had to keep paddling very fast.

I tried to keep my fears locked in a box but sometimes I would allow myself to think about it and although I was scared I knew I still wanted to do it. It was such a challenge personally and professionally.  I reassured myself that only people who were on my side would be in the audience.

Kingaroy Town Hall

As I stood at the side of the stage before that first show at the Powerhouse, I was excited and very nervous. I found myself tapping an imaginary weather clicker in my hand (I use one nightly to change my weather graphics) and constantly checking for a non-existent earpiece. Old habits die hard!

When I conceived the idea I was determined to take it on a tour of regional and remote places. I really wanted to go to some of the tiny places that rarely see a show. It was my way of saying thanks to everyone who has ever written or called me with a kind remark or some weather info from their place. While I have seen quite a bit of the state over the years, touring gave me a huge appreciation for the changing landscapes and I met so many interesting people. We were warmly welcomed everywhere we went and everyone loved the show.

Charleville: Steiger Vortex rain-making guns, Jenny, Margaret Burrows, Matt Erskine, Jake Bristow

One of the unexpected outcomes was the close relationships I developed with our little touring party. Our little group of four (sometimes five) had a wonderful time. Our truck and a car travelled thousands of kilometres, over highways, bumpy outback roads, and gravel tracks that resulted in flat tyres, damaged windscreens, dust and weariness. Together we compared the best bakeries, parmis, motels and op shops.

What struck me most of all, was no matter where we were or how small the venue, the crew always paid great attention to the smallest of details to ensure the best show possible.  I also have been introduced to heaps of new music and podcasts thanks to my driving partner and onstage buddy Jake Bristow.

It has been a remarkable experience and I have grown professionally and personally. I am so grateful to the people who has supported me along the way, especially my beautiful husband and sometime roadie, Doug.

Thanks also to Arts Queensland and ARTOUR for their support – it would not have been possible without them.

There are more shows coming up in August around the southeast and perhaps another tour on 2022. I can’t wait and now I am thinking about what to do next.    

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