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Beth Allen Generation of Z Interview

Posted on March 13, 2015 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

by Nick Cushion On March 13, 2015

Just under a month ago we brought news that The Generation of Z was going to be invading London fresh off our it’s domination of both New Zealand and Edinburgh (to rave reviews), it was something that we were excited and terrified about in equal proportions! For anyone who may have missed the announcement; the Generation of Z is a theatre experience like no other, it puts you squarely into the heart of a true zombie apocalypse with death and chaos unfolding around you every little step of the way; viewers are thrust into their very own action movie where the choices they make directly impact how the story plays out.


Earlier on today we had the opportunity to have a little chat with and interview one of the producers of The Generation of Z, Beth Allen and explore what it takes to create something truly unique; how do you take the idea of a zombie apocalypse (which is something that has been done many, many, many, many times before) and turn it into a fully immersive, pant-fillingly terrifying experience?


First, a bit of background

Beth Allen is from Auckland, New Zealand and she started her acting career in the mid 90’s (something she suddenly felt quite old about when we discussed it, sorry Beth!) where she joined a TV show called Riding High, she then worked practically solidly doing TV and Movie roles up until 2014 with her most famous role being that of Brooke Freeman in the TV show, Shortland Street where she played Freeman in a whopping 440+ episodes, which by anyones count is insane!


Now for the main event, the interview

IB: As the internet has lead me to believe, you have been acting since the mid 90’s; what made you decide to take the jump into producing instead?


BA: I have always been interested in behind the scenes work and the idea of putting a project together and seeing it through. In my early 20’s I discovered that I had more time and decided to explore that as an avenue and in 2008 myself and Charlie [Charlie McDermott, Beth’s Husband]

started to produce plays of our own.

IB: Did you find the transition difficult, switching from being in front of the camera to suddenly running things behind the scenes?


BA: You adapt very quickly actually, I absolutely loved being an actor but I just didn’t want the unpredictability that comes with it and I wanted to be in control of my own destiny as it were. Acting is great while the work is there but there is always a certain gamble, when you are behind the scenes and in control then everything is a little more secure'


IB:Where did the inspirations for Generation of Z come from


BA: I can’t really take much of the credit for that actually; it was mainly driven by Charlie McDermott, Simon London, and David Van Horn as a result of boys who play videogames wanting to bring their experiences to life in a way that hadn’t been seen before and really watch it take on a life of it’s own

Which, to be fair it seems to have done!


IB: What were your goals when you started Generation of Z? What were you hoping to achieve?


BA: Just under 2 years ago we wanted a way to draw an audience into theatre that hadn’t been done before, more specifically we wanted to draw the younger male audience and this provided us with a niche in that market. We were absolutely amazed by the reception it received and every time we do a show in a new venue we always want to make it bigger and better than before.


IB: On that note, what are your plans after the shows in London?


BA: Worldwide plans, really. The show provides something that isn’t really contained to a certain area and has things that could translate well all around as it is able to tap into that feeling that most people seem to have about their thoughts on how they would fare in a zombie situation.


IB: If you could sum up the experience of Generation of Z in one word, what would it be?


BA: Whirlwind! Both in terms of what the audience experience and for us behind the scenes as well. It was almost exactly a year ago that the first show was launched in Christchurch in New Zealand; Christchurch was ravaged by some really severe earthquakes and the city was looking for ways to rebuild interest so having the chance to set up an apocalypse in a city that had been devastated and looked like an actual apocalypse was really interesting.

Originally the plan for myself and Charlie was always to move to London anyway but when the rest of the crew came over for the show in Edinburgh they were only expecting a short stay (with most of us still holding down full time jobs back in New Zealand), with the show in London this has obviously extended that stay for all of the crew.


IB: Finally, and I have to ask this question really, if you found yourself in some form of Zombie apocalypse, what would your survival plans be?

BA: I would attach myself to someone who knows anything about zombies or maybe I’ll just become one of those people who just shuts themselves inside and refuses to come out. Maybe I’m not the best person to have around in that situation…


So there we have it, information of the origins, the future, and who you maybe should avoid during a real zombie apocalypse.


Big thank you to Beth Allen for talking to us and giving us the inside scoop on what’s involved with creating your own apocalypse. The show will be running from 4th April to 5th July 2015

10 questions with Beth

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Shortland Street favourite Beth Allen is swapping a hospital for a classroom this month starring in and co-producing the psychological drama Between the Sheets at The Basement theatre. She spoke to reporter Jess Lee about feminism and gender bias in the world of New Zealand show business.'



1. Describe Between the Sheets in 140 characters or less.

A parent-teacher interview that veers well away from the child under discussion.


2. What drew you to the play?

The taut writing, the simplicity of the staging, the fact that my character is different from the one I play on Shortland Street and the chance to work with Jennifer Ward-Lealand [actress and co-producer] and Sophie Roberts [director].


3. The play is brought together by an entirely female cast, crew and creative team - was this a conscious decision?

A very conscious decision. Partly because it was fitting due to the female-oriented themes of the play and partly in response to an article by Janet McAllister in a newspaper late in 2012 highlighting the lack of plays written and directed by women being staged in Auckland.


4. What do you think of Sweden's new movie rating system to highlight gender bias? [To get an "A" rating, a movie must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.]

Ha! That is brilliant. Can we get it here? 


5. How do you think New Zealand would stack up across the theatre, television and film scenes? 

Television seems to be more even-keeled in terms of gender bias. We don't produce enough theatre by women but generally theatre tends to give women roles that have more scope to them than "girlfriend" or "mother". 

With regard to films, I saw White Lies [based on the Witi Ihimaera novel Medicine Woman] this year and was cheered to see a film with a cast of women, two of whom were over 30, with about four lines of dialogue in the whole movie revolving around a man. That's got to be progress. 


6. Do you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think of it as a label?

Yes. I think in New Zealand the label has a negative connotation to it - there's a bit of an "oh, don't make a fuss" attitude here.

But in recent weeks, with the revelations of the Roast Busters and several high-profile men's attitudes toward the young women involved, as well as the difficulty in prosecuting sexual assault, I feel that we have to remain vigilant.

We need to preserve all the gains that were made for us by brave women in times past by continuing to demand safety and equality.

There are still plenty of countries where women have it much worse than we do here and in this country we still have to teach our younger women to safely navigate their way through a culture influenced by a highly sexualised online environment.


7. Have you experienced gender bias during your career?

Unless you're the lead role, actresses are usually paid less than the actors playing similar-sized roles.


8. What do you think Between the Sheets says about modern femininity?

That it's complicated!

That it's impossible for women to please everyone but that in many ways we are expected to.

That we judge each other too harshly and that this is holding us back from supporting each other.


9. How do you think audiences will relate to both characters?

The piece is cleverly written to keep you guessing about both characters - your moral compass will swing all over the place.

 

10. What are you hoping audiences will take from it?

That you can't easily judge people for their choices. 

Especially when the choices are difficult. Between the Sheets runs until November 30 at The Basement theatre. Go to iticket.co.nz for tickets.

- © Fairfax NZ News

In Good Company

Posted on August 15, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

by Donna Fleming

You would think Beth Allen had plenty on her plate playing Shortland Street’s Brooke Freeman.

But when she’s not in front of the camera pretending to be the scheming doctor, you’ll usually find the talented actress in her dressing room, doing accounts, writing out invoices or emailing theatres. 

As if working on the fast-turnaround TV show wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Beth also runs a company – Royale Productions – with her husband Charlie McDermott, and has become adept at multitasking.

 

“The other day I did my GST while I was having my hair done,” says Beth (29).

“It takes a long time to get me ready to be Brooke – I’m in the make-up chair for an hour and 15 minutes – so I might as well use that time. And when I do have other downtime, I can use it to get Royale stuff done.”

Beth, who has been acting since she was 11, finds she has time on her hands because she is able to learn lines quickly, and her character isn’t often required for scenes unless they are necessary to her storyline.

 

“The good thing about Brooke is she doesn’t have any friends, so she doesn’t sit in the staff room ‘catching up’ with people. Brooke’s scenes tend to be all about Brooke, so I tend to have fewer than other actors,” says Beth, laughing.

 

The name Royale Productions is inspired by their names – Elizabeth and Charles. 

You might wonder why Beth feels the need to take on extra commitments when she has an established role, but she points out that acting is not the most stable employment, and she and Charlie (also an actor-turned-producer) are keen to create opportunities – not just for themselves, but other actors, too. 

“This is a really fickle industry – you don’t know what will happen next,” Beth says. 

“I want to build a foundation for after Shortland Street. It is good to have something else you can do.”

 

Plus, Beth doesn’t like sitting around doing nothing. 

“Well actually, some days I do. But when I’m working, I like to get a lot done. I enjoy the extra stimulation that producing gives me.” 

Royale Productions has been responsible for a variety of theatre shows, including good friend Michael Hurst’s one-man show No Holds Bard, and an interactive production called Apocalypse Z, in which the audience becomes part of a zombie invasion. 

Royale is also producing a two-hander play later this year titled Between the Sheets, starring Beth and Michael’s wife Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

 

“Producing did start out as a way of creating my own projects, but it has turned into a lot more than that,” says Beth. 

Charlie agrees. “As an actor, I need to be in charge of my own destiny – I don’t want to have to rely on someone else.

“But as well as being able to come up with projects that I can do, I also like the idea of leaving my mark on the industry by providing pathways for others.”'


Along with producing and acting, Charlie is also the general manager of Auckland’s Basement Theatre. It means a full schedule, but like his wife, who he married in February 2011, he’s not afraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in.

“I love hard work,” says Charlie (30). “I come from a farming background, from salt-of-the-earth people who expect to work hard.

“If you want to achieve anything, that’s what you have to do, and the creative industries are no different.”

Beth admits they have to be careful not to take on too much.


“My work/life balance does tend to get a bit out of whack.”

Running a business together can be tricky for some couples, but it’s easier for Charlie and Beth because they are not in an office together all day.

“I don’t think we could do it if we had to sit side by side,” says Beth. “It would be too much.”

“It is probably just as well Beth is at Shortland Street,” adds Charlie, grinning at his wife.

“Like every partnership, it takes work. We are both pretty stubborn people and have to remove emotion from it and just think about what is best for our livelihoods.”

And they tend not to quarrel, according to Beth – at least not over important stuff.


When she’s not playing manipulative Brooke in Shortland Street, Beth is learning the ins and outs of production.

“If we do argue, it is about small things, like whose turn it is to do the dishes. We’re lucky that we are a really good team.” 

They complement each other, adds Charlie, because while he’s good at seeing the big picture, Beth is great at the details. 

“She’s so brainy,” he says. “The brainiest person I know. She’s just amazing.” 

Beth, meanwhile, credits her husband of two years with helping her think outside of the square.

“He has such great ideas. I’ve learned a lot – he is always spurring me on. He has given me so much confidence in myself. I’m not really a confident person in a lot of ways, but that’s why I’ve got Charlie.”


It’s a two-way street, says Charlie. “Beth really helps to inspire me.“

The couple have lots of ideas for creative projects further down the track, and have come up with plans for the next 12 months, five and 10 years, both personally and professionally.

“We are determined to stick to those plans,” says Charlie. 

“For example, I would love for us to have a baby right now, but it is not in our immediate plans and there are lots of good reasons why we should wait.” 

“It is on the cards,” confirms Beth. “We do want to have a family, but I’m not leaving Shortland Street anytime soon.

“There are still lots of things we want to do first, so a baby won’t be happening just yet.”

Charlie adds, “Having a child is the ultimate goal and we want to do everything properly and be financially secure. So we’re working hard and smart now, so we will be able to do that further down the track.”