Miss Westralia

SHOW STATUS: In Development

CATEGORY: Get Together

Email Address: balloonheadtheatre@gmail.com

Company Website: https://www.facebook.com/balloonheadtheatre/

Producer Name: Amelia Burke

Synopsis ( max 1500): BERYL MILLS, 19, is a plucky farm girl and promising high achiever in Geraldton, Western Australia. She is content enough, but anxious for her life to begin. During the summer between her graduation from high-school and the beginning of her university career, her father sends in a photo of her in a swimsuit as entry to the Miss Australia Competition, much to the disapproval of her Victorian valued mother, KITTY.

After being crowned Miss Westralia, Beryl makes it as one of the five finalists in Miss Australia 1926, and is the unlikely winner. She is awarded a prize of 1000 pounds, two cars and a promotional tour of the United States accompanied by her mother and FRANK PACKER, whose newspaper sponsored the competition.

Beryl returns to Geraldton briefly to pack for her trip abroad and is alarmed by the change in attitude of the townspeople. They originally supported her ambitions and saw her as a fine representative of their home state. Now, they accuse her of neglecting her country roots and are quick to point out her flaws and perceived arrogance. In the face of all this, Beryl decides to embark on the tour. Beryl, Kitty and Frank Packer board the SS Sonoma from Sydney and via the unfamiliar discomfort of an ocean voyage, Beryl gets her first taste of the bittersweet nature of adventure and world travel.

They arrive in San Francisco and are greeted by the reigning Miss America, NORMA SMALLWOOD and the town Mayor, who is the first in a long line of remarkably hospitable American officials who embrace Beryl as the ideal Aussie girl. Beryl tours capital cities throughout the country with numerous engagements, meetings and events, accompanied by Norma. The media frenzy surrounding Beryl builds.

Norma develops jealousy and resentment towards Beryl as a result of Beryl’s overwhelming popularity and the many opportunities that are being offered to her including movie roles and endorsement deals. As the stresses and requirements of a celebrity tour start to weigh on Beryl’s psyche and fatigue her, Norma takes advantage of this. She begins to expose Beryl to all the drawbacks of celebrity, such as pointing out the language newspapers use when describing her. Ultimately, she plants seeds of doubt in Beryl’s head pertaining to the exploitative and superficial nature of the warm embrace she is receiving. Meanwhile, Kitty begins to revel in the freedom and excess of the American lifestyle and culture.

At the end of the tour, exhausted and disenfranchised, Beryl arrives in Atlantic City for the finals of the Miss America pageant. Beryl is the guest of honour. In a move half rooted in manipulation and half in confiding trust in Beryl, Norma expresses her personal feelings about the nature of the competition and the effect it has had on her womanhood and autonomy. Beryl becomes suspicious of the motives of Packer, the Americans and celebrity in general.

After refusing a movie deal, Beryl’s suspicions are confirmed in a meeting with Frank Packer. He explains to her that the express purpose of the Miss Australia competition and tour is to use Beryl as a symbol of Australian girlhood in order to encourage immigration from young American men. He provides her with a pre-written speech for her public address to Australia, which Beryl finds disingenuous and misrepresentative of the true nature of the country she has experienced. 

Beryl storms out of the meeting, which leaves Kitty apologising profusely to Frank and expressing her extreme gratitude for the trip. This all culminates in Kitty making a pass at him. Frank rejects Kitty’s advance but convinces her to give the pre-written speech to Beryl. Kitty finds Beryl in her hotel room and encourages her not to waste an opportunity that is so rarely afforded to people, especially women. 

Beryl reflects on her new position as a figurehead, as a representation of womanhood and nationalism, and the subsequent responsibility of this role. Stuck between the waring cultural influences of Australia and America, she struggles to find where she fits in. Her anxiety and discomfort build, leading towards a breakdown. She struggles to reconcile the opposing values of humility, hardship, and judgmental conservatism of Australia and the freedom, excess and shameless self-promotion of the United States. She becomes increasingly stressed and self-reflective wanting to stand out from her fellow Australians but not to the point of blinding herself to her flaws. Beyond this crisis of identity lies the question of how to represent the USA to her Australian audience. Finally after the storm, is clarity and calm.

She returns to Australia and delivers a speech with masterful ambiguity and diplomacy, in which she neither compromises on her honest opinions of America’s drawbacks nor completely insults or demonises the country. Rather, she focuses on the ways in which Australia can adopt positive elements of America’s attitude and culture to better the country.

Review Quotes (max 3 quotes): "The set is simple, actors weaving in and out of stacked suitcases, the music is sublime..." -Laura Money, Fourth Wall Media
"The humour is mostly of the gently satirical sort, using changing attitudes to make points about
today’s society."-Rebecca Bowman, Isolated Nation
"Miss Westralia is a lovely new little Aussie musical with as much charm as Beryl Mills herself." Kimberley Shaw, Stage Whispers