Manly Observer caught up with actor and co-founder of Dee Why’s Point Break Drama Acting School, Paul Winchester and luminary Melissa Jones, to discuss the Beaches’ performing arts school and its forthcoming production of The Tempest to be held in Manly from 23 March.
For 20 years Point Break has hosted courses and workshops in dramatic tuition for both the stage and screen, teaching children, teenagers and adults.
Operating from a church on Fisher Rd, Dee Why, where they use the main hall and several rooms, the company also present several theatrical productions throughout the year at Star of the Sea Theatre in Manly.
“We started off primarily as an acting school,” Paul explained, “but we’ve become more of a studio, in that we offer acting courses, but we also offer specialty workshops, hosted by casting agents, famous actors and directors.”
Who are some of the people who’ve hosted workshops?
“We’ve had Stevie Ray from McGregor’s Casting Agency; Leigh Pickford from Maura Fay’s, who has been here many times; David Newman; and Joe Bryan, who is very well known around town, is not only an actor but a casting director as well.
“Actor Richard Roxborough has been here too,” Paul revealed. “Probably half a dozen times he’s hosted workshops.”
Richard Roxburgh is a multi-award-winning screen and stage actor, perhaps best known for film roles in Moulin Rouge and Van Helsing, (in which he portrayed Dracula), and Australian TV dramas Rake and Blue Murder.
In the former he portrayed a brilliant barrister defending guilty criminals; in the latter he had a memorable role as notorious real-life ‘rogue’ cop Roger Rogerson, who is now serving a life sentence for murder.
“Richard is amazing with his workshops,” Paul enthused. “Everyone loves him because he’s so giving with his time and energy and he’s a very sort of nurturing kind of teacher.
“It sort of fits in with what we do here, because we really want to nurture our students and encourage them to grow at their own rate. Everyone grows at a different rate, and we like to help them develop their acting skills and their abilities and try to offer as many opportunities for them to explore these through classes or performance.”
What kind of acting tuition does Point Break provide?
“We break it into two main areas,” Paul explained, “stage acting classes and screen acting classes.
“The stage classes teach acting technique – a lot of improvisation skills and performance opportunities. So, for example, with the teens and kids they perform at the end of each term.
“And then the screen; all age groups can do screen classes and that’s aimed at students that want to train up to become proficient at auditioning for film and TV work.”
Paul continued, “We advise students to do at least one class of each, because you get the foundation skills in a normal drama class, and you can apply those to the screen, but screen acting is also very specific in what it requires as well…”
“It’s two very different mediums,” Melissa elaborated. “On the stage everything’s bigger, louder, because you are projecting to an audience, sometimes up to the rafters. But on screen it’s all minimal.
“There’s an adrenaline rush of putting on live theatre,” she continued. “A spontaneity that you can bring to a performance just by having an audience… and bouncing off your scene partner.
“It should change every night – the treat is to be in it. Sometimes it’ll be a surprise to you… that energy! If you do lose that spark then it’s no joy or fun for an audience to watch. You’ve got to be up there wanting to make it special…”
Melissa has acted in a variety of mediums, from live theatre to TV productions as well TV commercials, and recently starred alongside Paul in Point Break’s October 2022 theatre production of Macbeth.
“Mel and I were in Macbeth together last year,” Paul confirmed, “she was Lady Macbeth and I was Macbeth.”
The production was modernised from Shakespeare’s original 17th Century tale of a psychotic general’s murderous reign as king of Scotland, to a contemporary gangster’s “turf war for control of a major city’s criminal underworld.”
Melissa is also performing the lead in Point Break’s March 2023 presentation of The Tempest, another play penned by the grand master of the performing arts, William Shakespeare.
“This is our second time we’ve had Mel come in,” Paul declared. “She’s awesome!”
“Point Break has decided to do The Tempest and they very kindly asked me to play Prospero,” Melissa confirmed. “Prospero’s was written as a male role, but that’s reflective of the time, as it has been played by women..
“She’s sat on an island after she’s been, kind of, done-over by her brother. She’s the Duchess of the land and 12 years ago she was set adrift with her infant daughter and they landed on this island where she’s practices black arts and wizardry.
“Then, by happy chance, all her enemies are happily and coincidently sitting in one sailing ship. Prospero raises a tempest, and they are brought to shore where they’re all disbanded. It’s havoc! She really gets off on dealing out revenge with a sidekick, a spirit, who helps her in her ventures…
“It’s fun! There are goddesses and spirits and harpies and lots of really, really fun magic!”
I remember Sir John Gielgud on a swing in the 1991 film adaptation of Prospero’s Books – will you be swinging from the theatre rafters?
“I don’t think so, I’m afraid of heights!” she declares. “But they’ll do their magic with the stage set. The stage crew are very good and experienced at bringing to life Point Break’s adaptations of Shakespeare.
“But it’s also very daunting, because Lady Macbeth had only a third of the text that Prospero has! … I mean, I read the script about three or four times a day. I sleep with my scripts! Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, something on my mind, I know I’m going to be awake for a couple of hours, so, I’ll just take the script out and read it again…
“And we rehearse twice a week; three times a week as we get nearer the production dates…
“However, when you’re in the moment, acting on stage, and you have this beautiful Shakespearean language dripping from your tongue, there’s no better place to be!”
“We’re doing three Shakespeare productions this year,” Paul revealed. “We start with The Tempest in March, a production with primarily an adult cast. And then we’re doing an all-team young adult Midsummer Night’s Dream in July…
“And then we’re going to finish in October with Romeo and Juliet, which will be half-adult, half-teen, so we will cast the lead roles of Romeo and Juliet as teenagers, and then obviously their parents we played by adults.”
Will they all be performed at Star of the Sea Theatre in Manly?
“Yes at Star of the Sea,” Paul confirmed. “We’ve been using that theatre space for the last three years – 2020, 2021, 2022 – they work with us and they’ve been fantastic. It’s a first class theatre and they have not only great facilities, but really good people who work there.”
Point Break Drama offers short drama/acting courses to teenagers, children and adults.
Adults can choose from three levels of acting: Beginners for the stage, two levels of Advanced Theatre Acting, and two levels of Screen Acting.
Point Break Drama
Tickets for The Tempest
6 performances only from 23 March to 1 April 2023