Decades after she last tread the boards as a theatre student in Toowoomba, much-loved Queensland weather presenter Jenny Woodward is coming home to present her one-woman stage show, ‘Weathering Well’, proudly presented by The Empire Theatre and the University of Southern Queensland.
After 35 years with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – in the starring role as the seven-o’clock news weather presenter – it may seem a stretch to some for Jenny Woodward to make a jump from screen to stage.
But in 2021 she’s doing just that – making a return to her roots and paying homage to her teenage dreams of becoming a full-time actor.
One of six girls, born and raised between Toowoomba and Brisbane, Jenny was in the last cohort of Year 12 students to go through Mater Dei in Toowoomba before it became a standalone primary school.
“The nuns there were all very interested in the Arts and I had a fantastic teacher, Sister Patricia, who taught me piano and also ran the choirs and the annual musical,” she said.
Acting firmly in her sights, Jenny had a hard conversation with her parents who suggested studying the profession wasn’t a good career plan.
“Mum said I needed something to fall back on, so I started a teaching degree at DDIAE (Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education – now USQ) in an attempt to do the right thing,” Jenny said.
“But my heart just wasn’t in it, so I dropped education and went back to the acting course.”
The future weather woman thrived at DDIAE and still speaks of her study years with obvious fondness.
“It was a performance driven course with little theory which could be daunting at times – it really was a make it or break scenario each day as you were performing all the time,” Jenny said.
“I took a children’s theatre stream and for that unit we toured around the region in a double decker bus to all these different schools, which made for a wonderful experience.”
Throughout her university years, Jenny was also working part time at the local television station, but still she pursued her acting career when she graduated.
“I auditioned around the traps and got a job with a travelling theatre group based in Armidale, which I loved, but after six months I decided to go back to Toowoomba and look at my options there with Channel 10,” she said.
“Staying in Toowoomba was definitely the right decision personally, as well as professionally, as I liked the team at Channel 10 so much and there was such pioneering spirit at regional television at that time.”
And it’s Jenny’s spirit and natural kindness that’s made her a mainstay of television in regional Queensland to this day – and a literal sell-out at the box office.
When tickets to her one-woman show ‘Weathering Well’ went on sale for a one night only performance at the Brisbane Powerhouse (performed in April 2021), the show sold out faster than a Category 1 cyclone fizzles out in far north Queensland.
“I’ve had the most amazing team of people, including past colleague Karen Berkman who wrote the script, bring this seed of an idea together and it’s been honed and teased and rearranged and had a large musical element and AV included as well,” Jenny said.
“I wanted to create a theatrical version of a talk, but an elevated and ramped up adaptation. I’m happy to say we’re on track for that! I just really wanted it to be fun and theatrical but still be me – and the Director, Bridget Boyle, has indulged me and do have a bit of a sing with the pianist, Jake Bristow.
“Right from the start, I wanted to tour the show to remote and regional parts of the state and get to meet the people in those areas and I am thrilled to see we are now going to cover a lot of ground.”
Jenny will bring the show to Toowoomba on the evening on Friday the 11th of June at The Empire Theatre.
“It gives a nod to my study at DDIAE, and I can’t say enough how good a theatre course it was – a lot of the things I learnt I’ve employed throughout by career on stage and television, and I’d have been devastated if I hadn’t been able to bring this show to Toowoomba,” she said.
“I’m so grateful that the University of Southern Queensland still likes to claim me and are sponsoring this performance – it allows me to thank people who have supported my career right from the start. There’s nothing quite like coming home.”
Tickets for the Toowoomba show are on sale now.
Tour supported by The Playing Queensland Fund and arTour, initiatives of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
ABC weather presenter Jenny Woodward.