Passionis Productions brings Eyre Peninsula imagination to the stage

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By Kaia Wallis

After the curtains closed on Rebekah Danzic’s Year 12 drama production the Port Lincoln High School student was met with a question – “what next?”

While Rebekah knew she wanted to be involved in the world of theatre, she felt the opportunities she craved were few and far between in her regional hometown.

Still, Rebekah was adamant to stay in the Eyre Peninsula and soon set out with her childhood friend and classmate, Alyssa Biele, to create the opportunities they both longed for.

At 19 years of age the two young women founded Passionis Productions, a not-for-profit drama group aimed at making art more accessible in Port Lincoln. Four years have passed and the drama group also encompasses a writing, arts and film chapter under its umbrella – all of which are run by volunteers and are free to join.

“We just wanted to create a space that was open to everyone, no matter their financial position or experience in the arts,” says Rebekah, creative director of Passionis Productions.

“We tried to make Passionis a place for people to be involved in theatre and the arts without them having to travel to the city or move away from South Australia.”

Passionis Productions performing ‘Four Doors’ at the Port Lincoln Nautilus Theatre.

Rebekah says the groups have become something of a haven for people wanting to explore the arts and collaborate with other creatives.

“It’s been an honour to create an opportunity for people to find themselves and we’re seeing people growing into leader, which is great to see happening in regional areas,” Rebekah says.

Rebekah serves as an overarching director of all four groups and co-runs the writing and film clubs while Madison Nugent and Belili Valkyrie run the art sub-group Passionis Arts.

Belili says she first signed up to the theatre group while completing Year 12 in Cummins, a small town just over 60km from Port Lincoln.

“Passionis has grown a lot and so have I, thanks to the group. When I started I had trouble talking in front of my class without feeling sick and now I can perform on stage and help out,” Belili says.

“I have been able to experience performing on stage and being backstage; the group is a second family, a creative and welcoming space and a place to grow and express.”

Since its first production Are you the patient four years ago, the group has poured itself into a major ticketed show each year to create funds for all four sub-groups and host free community events throughout the year.

“We started off with nothing; we put on a show through donations from members, ourselves and local community groups,” Rebekah says.

“We used the money from that performance for another performance and we’ve just been able to keep growing and funding ourselves.”

Passionis Productions performing ‘Four Doors’ at the Port Lincoln Nautilus Theatre.

While each show is full of humour, Rebekah says the productions don’t shy away from themes of mental health, grief and fear.

“Mental health is a huge passion of mine, and a lot of the group has been able to open up about their own mental health journeys,” she says.

“A lot of what we do is about removing the stigma and just opening up and talking about it.”

Rebekah was awarded the Port Lincoln City Council’s 2018 Young Citizen of the Year Award for her work with Passionis Productions and other volunteer work throughout the community.

“There’s something really rewarding about Passionis that gives me the drive to do better,” she says.

“When we started I heard about these towns in Europe that had become arts capitals because people pushed, and the towns grew.

“I think Port Lincoln could become an arts capital where big shows and movies are made, and I think we’re starting to see that shift now.”

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