Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Archive Copy - January Interview 2010

Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper

Green Room award-winning actor, scriptwriter Tim Stitz makes a beeline for his La Mama debut.  Paul Andrew gets the buzz.

There's no doubt, honey and memory are inextricably linked.  One moment you're spreading honey across your toast and the next, you're age four sitting on your grandfather's knee while he is waxing lyrical about the number of bees required to make one kilo of the liquid gold. For actor and playwright Tim Stitz a series of remembrances like this one were so vivid he wrote a play about them.

Stitz reveals his inspiration. 

“ It wasn't all toast and honey.  I was sitting with my grandfather a few years back just after my grandmother died, recording something of the family history onto cassette tapes.  We taped three ninety minute tapes of family history. And honestly, I was beginning to get very bored.  I mean the history was interesting but it was all a bit too factual and family tree-like. So I thought asking Granddad about his life as a beekeeper would be much more interesting. My word was there some gold there.”

Lloyd Beckman, Beekeeper is an autobiographical monologue with two "characters". Stitz plays both. One his "true life granddad" - a talented if somewhat stoic bee keeper who is having a love affair with bees, the other is Stitz, as his younger self;  a child whose imagination is seized equally by this strange romance as much as the way his grand dad faces issues like aging, death, inheritance and the means by which one can avoid too many bee stings.

In writing the monologue Stitz faced the challenge any author confronts while writing autobiographical material, what to include and what to leave out, or as Stitz puts it- deciding what is gold, what is dross and then translating it into an engaging script, requires hard work and uptmost selectivity.   

“As an audience member, I love when a personal story or monologue sucks you in. There's a hook, it yanks you into the world of the story. Not all monologues do this - it's a difficult task-  when they do, it's intoxicating. Autobiography has the ability to truly bring a very personal story to light if a script can show the universality of the experience, the struggles, the joys, so we can each see ourselves in the details of that personal story and the relationship to others.”

Stitz spent the last three years interviewing his grandfather, and alongside Director Kelly Somes interviewed other professional bee-keepers, agriculturalists, primary industry workers complimented with  heaps of additional reading as he puts it --  to get the details of bee keeping as true as possible.

“ There's much more to bees than honey. Now, I regard bees with a healthy dose of respect. Without bees so much of the world's vegetation wouldn't grow. Bees pollinate a vast amount of the world's flora. Without bees, over a third of the world's flora would perish, including the fruit, vegetables and nuts we eat daily. There are fatal diseases and pests threatening bee colonies around the world. I think Australia is one of the two countries in the world still free of the terrible Varrroa mite. There are many agriculturalists, scientists and authors lobbying us to understand we  are absolutely stuffed without bees. Sometimes, they're quite doomsday about it”.

“ The trick to not getting stung?  It's beekeeping- you get stung”. Stitz laughs.“ It's the smoke from a beekeeper's smoker that keeps bees calm. Wearing light colours helps enormously, that's why beekeeping suits are all white. Granddad never wore gloves when he was tending his 150 hives - a lot of very experienced beekeepers do, others think they have more control without gloves.  The best remedy for a sting is honey itself or an Aloe Vera leaf smeared on the sting after you've brushed off the venom sack. Granddad says that he regularly got up to 10 stings per hive,  even with smoke and a full body suit. You should see the skin on his hands now.“

He pauses,  remembering painful bee stings from his past perhaps.

“Oh, and by the way, it takes about five hundred bees four weeks to collect enough nectar to make just a kilo of honey. So, savour that honey as you lash it on your toast.”

Season Finished

Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper is devised & performed by Tim Stitz, devised & directed by Kelly Somes and played 3 - 14 February 2010

La Mama

NB: Keep an eye out for Stitz and crew at

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