The thrill of the greasepaint
BEVERLEY Horwood has been behind the curtain for forty years’ worth of Ballarat Lyric Theatre shows.
When her 16-year-old son was cast in his first musical, the mother of five “fell” into performing arts too.
“He’d never danced a step in his life, but from then on, I used to go and pick him up,” Ms Horwood said. “I walked in the door, and before I knew it, I had a job. That was in 1980 and I’m still there.”
For 20 years she sewed and coordinated costuming, and had a brief stint as assistant secretary, but for 26 years Ms Horwood was Lyric’s secretary, at the heart of the committee.
“Theatre became a way of life,” she said. “It’s something I’ve really enjoyed, from the audition period, through the transition to a show going up on stage.
“There’s the glitz and the lights, but to be working backstage and to see it all come to fruition, that’s what I like about it. It’s an interesting field and always something to do, even making a cup of tea for somebody,” Ms Horwood said.
“It’s the thrill of the greasepaint, that’s what they call it.”
Ready to stage Les Misérables this week, Ms Horwood said every show has been a highlight, each with “something special.” She’s been proud to see Lyric go “from strength to strength” each decade, enriching Ballarat.
“It gives you lot of satisfaction that you’ve helped to give someone an opportunity. Someone might be a chorus person, but they might stand out and gain enough confidence to go for a lead the next year,” she said.
“There’s so many talented people around and I think the performing arts are important because they give people hope. You can be anything and express yourself.
“BLOC and Lyric are both striving to put on a good quality show, and we do bring people into town from Melbourne and afar. Ballarat’s economy does benefit from it.”
But Lyric isn’t the only group that Ms Horwood has supported, formerly at the core of the region’s swimming culture.
“My daughter joined Ballarat GCO Swimming Club in 1983. She was there for about nine years before she left, and I stayed,” she laughed.
Until last year, Ms Horwood was a member of GCO and the Midlands District Amateur Swimming Association. At school, country and state meets, she mastered many roles on the pool deck as a chief timekeeper, Swimming Victoria official, a judge, marshal, check starter, recorder and semi-automatic timer.
The MDASA’s secretary for 16 years, Ms Horwood was acknowledged by United Way in 2011 as their National Sport Volunteer of the Decade.
“When I first started, I didn’t know anything about swimming, but I grew to like the atmosphere, the friendly people, the comradery, and we had a lot of fun,” she said.
“It was about being there to help the children get times, and see them achieve their goals, to go onto bigger and better things.
“It’s wonderful when they do a PB because they’re very happy, and you’re happy for them. It’s exciting.”
Recently nominated as one of the Zonta Club of Ballarat’s Great Women for 2020, Ms Horwood is only just coming to terms with her 2019 honour, the Ballarat Arts Foundation Denis Bateman Award for long-term service to the arts.
Also celebrated for being a Royal South Street Society usher, and giving 35 years of volunteerism to the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Charity Christmas Card Shop, she said it’s “really special” to be recognised.
“A lot of men get awards, but women often get left behind. I never thought I’d fit into the Great Women category, so I’m quite chuffed about it,” Ms Horwood said.
“My husband was in the navy. I brought up the kids practically on my own and all I knew was inside the house. I was a shy person, so volunteering helped me gain confidence.
“It’s made me a better person, helping and learning from other people. It’s given me independence, I’m a much more positive person and I’ve loved every minute of it.”