Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 22nd, 2017
With rehearsals for Coma Land now underway, our Marketing Coordinator Cecile has some interviews lined up with cast members and the creative team. First one to be quizzed is Kirsty Marrilier who plays Boon, the main character. Kirsty is a 26 year old South African Australian actress who immigrated to Australia in 2000. Kirsty caught the acting bug at the early age of 10 and is an acting graduate of WAAPA (2015). Since moving to Sydney in late 2014, she has performed in a number of theatre and film productions. Happy to be back in Perth to perform in Will O’Mahony’s new play, we caught up with Kirsty to find out more about Coma Land and her experience as an emerging performer.
Coma Land by Will O’Mahony
A Performing Lines WA/ Black Swan State Theatre Company co-production
20 July – 6 August 2017 | State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Studio Underground
Info and booking>>
What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was about this play that grabbed you most?
I was pretty taken by the play when I first read it. It’s incredibly clever, eloquent piece with some beautiful themes at its core. I’ve always really been interested in work that is magic realist or surrealist in some way. Stories that will transport an audience and allow them to open up their perception of the world. Coma Land does this in various ways.
What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?
There are some big ideas set up in this play. Many of which work in contrast to each other. We’ve been looking at the relationship between difference and normality, life and death, acceptance and mastery within the human condition. Coma Land is a play that sets up questions for the characters and inevitably the audience to ask themselves. It’s about parenthood and children, and unconditional love but throws these things into a surrealist setting. It investigates the domestic through the fantastic and it is curious, endearing and magical. I think audiences will be moved by it in some way!
You play Boon in Coma Land, a fifteen years old prodigy girl. What can you tell us about your character and what is it that you like about her?
Boon isn’t like most teenagers because she has the most incredible mind and a complex relationship to it. She’s an observer and for me, she represents the “difference” in the play (something I connect with quite strongly). As much as her temperament is very different to my own, I’m finding her completely fascinating to explore.
Since your debut in Perth, you have been starring in a number of theatre and movie productions in Sydney. Can you share a moment or experience that was formative to you as an actor?
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to act opposite two seasoned screen actors in a micro budget feature film called The Greenhouse. It was incredibly insightful watching how much grace these women had on set and the nuance they gave their performances. It pushed me to always strive for more and to never be complacent with the amount of detail I give a character.
Another thing, collaboration is key. Especially in the Australian industry. You can’t do this on your own.
In The Greenhouse, we shot 120 pages of script in 20 days and it was so brilliant to see how much can be done if you have a strong team of passionate creative minds around you.
The Greenhouse, AFTR, directed by Tom Wilson, 2017
Have you ever considered a career other than actor?
I wanted to be an interior designer once. That was weird.
Lastly, can we expect to see you in any other work this year?
There are a few things in the works but nothing confirmed just yet! Stay tuned. Lol.
Realism, Stage play WAAPA directed by Anthony Skuse, 2014.
Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 20th, 2017
Sensorium Theatre Co-Artistic Director Michelle Hovane recently attended the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, with five other Australian delegates as part of the Australian Council’s ASSITEJ 2017 Youth Arts Leadership Delegation. The nine-day long seminar comprised a Festival, a Conference and a World Congress, all dedicated to theatre for young audiences. As the only delegate from WA, Michelle happily answered to our questions about what she gained from this international experience, as well as sharing some great tips for anyone attending similar showcase events.
You just came back from attending the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Can you tell us a bit more about this event?
ASSITEJ unites theatres, organisations and individuals from around the world who make theatre for children and young people so that they can share knowledge and practice within the field of theatre for children and young people in order to deepen understandings, develop practice, create new opportunities and strengthen the global sector. This year the decision-making congress, performance festival and research conference were all included in the “Cradle of Creativity” – which took place over 2 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. This was the first time ASSITEJ was hosted on the African continent.
As an Artistic Director of a small company and a performer, what are the benefits of attending such event, and what impact does it have on your personal practice?
What a privilege to be part of this feast of performance, conversation and networking! Coming from a small company based in an isolated city, it was truly mind blowing to take the pulse of theatre making for children and young people internationally and be included in a global community of people who are passionate about the cultural access and rights of the next generation. I felt deeply nourished, challenged, inspired and affirmed – it was like soul food to keep going and doing the work that I do.
Zick Zack Puff by Cie Mafalda (Switzerland)
How prepared were you before heading to South Africa? What advice would you give to anyone attending a similar event?
The programme for the Cradle of Creativity festival, conference and congress was overwhelming. I was enormously lucky to be part of the youth arts leadership delegation and guided by other more experienced Australian delegates and our Australia Council host Kevin Du Preez. For a month prior to the conference I was drip fed snippets of the program and slowly identified the shows, researched workshops and events that were my priority. However, nothing could prepare me for the full glory and chaos of the event itself! I think it is a good idea to have a quick summary of who you are and what you do for the inevitable speed-dating aspect of the networking – having this meant I could quickly identify delegates who I wanted to deepen the conversation with and vice versa. As part of the arts leadership delegation we were encouraged to connect deeply with three people and have three deep learnings and this also helped to focus things a bit.
Did you see any amazing shows and/or productions that resonate with the work that Sensorium Theatre does?
I saw many amazing shows and productions, and part of my agenda in attending the Festival was simply to see as many diverse works as I could, even if they had no obvious connection with Sensorium Theatre.
My favourite show was an electrifying production of Animal Farm performed by black South African women and directed by Shakesperience Productions. I also met Karolina Zernyte, Artistic Director of Theatre of the Senses, a company based in Lithuania, whose work resonated with the work we do in Sensorium Theatre. I was intrigued by some of the work for babies and the very young. I connected with members of IIAN – International Inclusive Arts Network. I also discovered that in the majority world, children with disabilities are often extremely disadvantaged in terms of resources and community attitudes – and it has set me wondering what Sensorium could do to assist those working for change.
Animal Farm by Shakesperience Productions (South Africa)
For you, what was the highlight of your whole week there?
The opening night of the festival was an extraordinary showcase of work from Africa and the Festival Director talked about theatre making as an Act of Love. This was very affirming for the work that we do in Sensorium Theatre and for me personally as an artist. There was a huge sense of the centrality of arts and culture in that society and a feeling of being valued as an artist – in a time when we face an increase in populism, xenophobia and fear of otherness, there was a sense of urgency that we as artists and cultural workers have an important role in creating solidarity, inclusion and togetherness across and within our national boundaries.
Theatre of the Senses(Lithuania)
Posted by Cecile Lucas, March 23rd, 2017
Direct from its recent premiere at Perth International Arts Festival, Maybe ( ) Together’s participatory performance Small Voices Louder is all set to hit the road for a Regional tour across Western Australia next week. Taking part in this adventure is performer and anthropology graduate Zoe Street, whose first experience as Stage Manager has shed some light on a new career opportunity. I managed to catch up with Zoe just before she heads off to find out more about what this first experience has brought to her.
Cecile – Small Voices Louder is your first experience as Stage Manager, how did you become involved and what are some of the challenges that you are facing?
It’s all about timing… I put my skills up for grabs when Performing Lines WA was on the look out for someone who was the right fit for the project. After a fairly unconventional job interview in a room full of bright yellow tents I found myself stage managing for the first time at PIAF with a show that I fell in love with on sight, so I guess I was the one for the job.
I’d say the biggest challenge would probably be getting to know the ins and outs of our wondrous set. The set is made of eight tents with a maze of paths connecting them and inside each tent there are miniature worlds. It’s all rather magical. However behind the magic there is an intricate tent construction process that involves arranging wooden frames with their matching inner layers, outer layers and bases, and a numerous array of peculiar props that bring the tents to life. After this season at PIAF I can call myself a cubby maintenance professional and the next big challenge will be taking it on the road.
Small Voices Louder is also quite different from the other productions you previously worked on, what do you like about it? Does that inspire you to pursue work in more participatory projects?
Working on participatory performance projects was new to me so I loved observing the active exchange that occurs in the space. The work relies on responses from the participants and that’s what brings it to life and creates an impact on those participating and those who hear the voices in various public spaces. As an anthropology graduate and artist this form of performance just makes sense and since being part of this project I’m left wondering why I didn’t find my way into this type of work sooner. Bring it on!
Next week you will be going on a regional tour with Small Voices Louder’s crew across Western Australia, what are you most excited about?
I’m really excited to get this work out to regional communities and hear what the children have to say about the way they see the world. The work provides a space for kids to think big and believe in their voice and also gives us adults such a startling insight into the wisdom they hold. Hearing the responses from the PIAF participants was very powerful and I’m looking forward to observing the similarities and differences that emerge as rural kids engage in the space. As we go to new places we’ll continue to build on the collection of children’s voices, which can hopefully capture a unique snapshot of the diversity of our state.
Are there any other productions you’d love to stage manage? Or any Artistic Directors you would love to work with?
Oh man this is hard, there are so many artists and companies I admire out there! Close to home pvi collective and Big Hart are two of my favourites. But I’m just going to go for gold here and say Bryony Kimmings and her current work The Boys Project would be a dream for me to be involved in. I saw Bryony’s work Fake It Til You Make It in 2014 and I left that show inspired and energised, so I always follow her work.
The Boys Project is a three year multi-platformed art activism project that works with young men from council estates in England. The project consists of a social campaign, theatre piece, education initiative and documentary, and this process of engaging with communities to integrate performance with social change initiatives is the type of work I believe in and would love to throw my energy into.
Do you have a favourite or most memorable experience from your career so far you would like to share with us?
I did a project a few years back where I interviewed Vietnam Veterans for a self devised show I wrote and performed called Speak to Me of War. I will always remember the camaraderie I felt as they invited me into their community and the generosity those men showed in openly sharing their experiences with me. It was such a privilege to hear their stories and I will always treasure that.
What do you have coming up after Small Voices Louder’s tour?
There are a few things in the works at the moment, but nothing I can really talk about just yet. I will say that I’m really keen to move in the direction of community arts work and socially engaged arts practice and see what that world has to offer. It’s all pretty new to me so I have some exploring to do but I’m drawn to projects that integrate social change initiatives with performance and participatory art.
Posted by Cecile Lucas, March 16th, 2017
Two months have passed since we welcomed Zainab Syed into the Performing Lines team as our new Associate Producer, and with her passionate and radiant personality, she has found her groove. Zainab has an impressive resume from working in the arts and humanitarian projects around the globe, and I couldn’t wait to delve into her history and discover what jewels lay underneath. In between her role at Performing Lines, and her many other engagements, she stopped for a quick, and eloquent chat with me…
Cecile: How did you first come across poetry and decide to become a spoken word artist?
As a Pakistani, poetry is tied to my very identity. Allama Iqbal, the greatest poet of the 20th century in the Indian Subcontinent, was the one who once dreamed of Pakistan. If it wasn’t for him, the map would look very different today. So you can say, I was born into poetry, that it has been a part of my narrative long before I came into the fold.
As a young girl, I always carried a notebook so I wouldn’t ever forget the places and people I met living abroad, and the things I missed about home. Poetry for me, became a way to record my present, which was tied closely to my nostalgia for a past I kept looking for in ladybugs and mangoes everywhere I went.
When I went to boarding school in Wales (UWCAC) I first met people who loved words as much as I did and encouraged me to start writing. However, it was only when I went to Brown University, in the US, that I shared my poetry. In my first month there I saw a few poets “perform” poetry, which was new to me but had me completely enthralled. It seemed as though my love of poetry, and years of theatre suddenly got married and had a baby. I looked them up, attended the first meeting, was thoroughly intimidated but never looked back.
WORD! as it was called, became my home, and the poets of there, my family. I grew there as a writer, a performer, a person. They were my first teachers in love and loss, lessons I carry within me everywhere I go. After Brown, I took six months off to finish my book before I joined some kind of development consultancy, which didn’t really happen. Instead those six months turned into a year of touring and three years later…
Being a spoken word artist, is it hard to change between languages and still convey the same message, feelings or emotions?
I think speaking more than one languages adds a richness to expression that only strengthens my poems. The key driver of any poem, or performance is the sincerity with which it is written and then brought to a stage. If you are truly honest in your poem, even if it is in a different language, it will resonate with the audience. It is important to write what feels most authentic, otherwise it becomes archaic and the listener will sense the hypocrisy in your words.
You’ve traveled widely and experienced a broad range of performances. Is there a particular show or experience that still resonates with you today and why?
Wow, that’s a hard one! Life has brought so many experiences, and learning moments in my life. Perhaps one of the most significant one to date has been when I went on a retreat to Turkey in August 2015. I had been on tour for a year and just needed a place to stop, and breathe for more than a week. What I found at the retreat were treasures I am still unearthing. I was able to study with teachers who taught me the weight of words. The gravity of tradition. The richness of a legacy.
One of them shared a story from the Masnavi with me. In the story, the Persian poet, Rumi, points out that the world is in need of translators. People who can bridge communities, cultures and races in an attempt to celebrate the diversity in our thought and expression. Having had the honour of intimately knowing and loving many communities across the world, I have always been deeply humbled by the responsibility I have to portray the love, the resilience, the softness of the people I encountered. To use poetry as a mean to serve as translator. To share the untold stories, here and abroad. To be a vessel between people, between minds and between hearts. And then, to impart these universal human values to the next generation so that we can empower them to become even better translators.
Those three weeks shaped the kind of work I do, the poems I write and the way I try to live my life – open to love, in the face of hate, always, no matter how tender it may make me feel.
What were some career highlight/s before starting at Performing Lines WA?
In December 2014, and following a terrorist shooting in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, I was invited to coordinate the post terrorist attack response. The shooting had affected every student in Pakistan but no one paid enough attention to the long-term effects of such immense trauma. I feared the insecurity would cripple us if we did not create safe spaces that channeled the negativity into positive expression. After teaching art therapy and writing workshops in a few schools, I realised there was a huge need for safe and creative spaces for children to engage with the violence around them in a constructive manner. Creative spaces give breathing room. They tend to diffuse the negativity, and provide an alternative to violence.
My experiences in Peshawar and then in other cities in Pakistan were the catalyst for Pakistan Poetry Slam, a project under WORD Ink, a social enterprise I am lucky enough to have founded. The motivation for Pakistan Poetry Slam was solely to create a safe space for the next generation of Pakistani’s to articulate, express and respond to the violence around them in a non-violent manner. The aim is to empower the youth with language and revive the tradition of story-telling and poetry that runs through us. In its second year, we have expanded from one city to four and hope to continue doing so in the future!
You are primarily renowned for being an international performer, and you are now working for Performing Lines WA to help present other artists’ productions, is this your first step away from the spotlight or have you produced other shows before?
I had been curating spaces for creative expression in Australia, Pakistan and the United States before working at Performing Lines, however the roles were very diverse and not as formalized as this one. I am passionate about creating spaces that allow people to explore and express themselves through creative expression. Especially in the socio-political climate of today’s world I find it increasingly necessary to create such spaces because art opens doors between hearts and we need as many doors connecting as many hearts as we can.
What prompted you to expand to working with us, and how have you found the change from artist to Associate Producer?
I absolutely love it! I love the stage, but I didn’t realised how much I would also love being behind the scenes. It gives me a chance to really focus on nurturing and empowering other people to find voices, and occupy spaces in a meaningful and impactful kind of way. Instead of making my own way within the Australian arts landscape, which I have found quite hard to navigate as an outsider, I wanted to join an organization that was already established within the sector so I could learn and grow as a Producer. I couldn’t be luckier to have joined Performing Lines.
Can you tell us a bit more about some of the exciting projects you are working on for 2017?
Within my capacity as a Producer at Performing Lines WA I am currently working on the Small Voices Louder Regional Tour through Western Australia.
- As a poet, I am making the final edits on my first book!
- As a curator, my illUMEnate team and I are planning our next two events in June, and October to amplify diverse voices in WA.
- As the founder of Pakistan Poetry Slam, I will be traveling to Lahore to host the second annual Pakistan Poetry Slam in April.
- As an educator, I will be teaching a new workshop program I have developed for school children in Pakistan.
- As a humanitarian observer, I will be visiting the Detention Centres in WA with the Red Cross throughout the year.
And I have a few other things up my sleeve for the second half of the year but I don’t want to spill all the beans!
You are also involved in a wide range of humanitarian works, where do you find the energy and time to do everything?
There is a saying in our tradition that the most successful people are those who are “ibn al waqt” which loosely translates as son of the moment. Which is to say, that in order to succeed one must be living in the present, fully. No procrastination. No to-do lists for the next day. But now, here, in this moment. A carpe diem of sorts.
There is so much to do in the world, and with the immense privilege I have been afforded, to always be engaged in endeavours that I absolutely love, I find it impossible to let life pass me by. I find that I must hustle, on all fronts, and offer what I can to the world. As much as I can. This is the only way I know how to show my gratitude for the myriad of opportunities I have been given.
If I work with that mindset, the energy comes, the blessings flow. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is okay to say “no” (twenty five years later I still haven’t learnt how) and that I don’t have to do everything or change the world even. As long as I’m working on being the best version of myself, I hope, one day that will inspire some small change.
Everybody loves a bit of procrastination and I am not exception but in those moments, I always remind myself of this poem:
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.
I hope to keep shaking the grass for as long as I have life in me.
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 3rd, 2016
Sexual violence and the subsequent treatment of survivors is an ongoing matter of international debate and concern. Yet nothing seems to change. One show, Project Xan, is tackling the issues this subject raises in a deeply personal way. Xan Fraser was attacked as a child, and her subsequent treatment by the court system and then the media was appalling. Xan also appears in the show. Thom Smyth caught up with performer and project consultant Siobhan Dow-Hall.
Thom Smyth: Tell us about Project Xan. How would you describe the show?
Siobhan Dow-Hall: I would describe Project Xan as a rallying cry – a call to arms. It’s a plea to talk honestly about issues that affect so many, many, many women (and men). Project Xan is not about us standing on a soapbox and berating people, and it’s certainly not about sensationalising the real-life assault of Xan Fraser. It’s about all of us coming together as a community and asking ourselves: what can I do?
TS: You’ve been participating in the development of the show over quite a long period of time, as well as now about to perform in it. How did you initially get involved?
SD-H: My involvement in Project Xan came about through a beautiful moment of serendipity. I got talking to Hellie Turner (the director and writer) during the interval of another show we were seeing together. I mentioned I had just started a research masters looking at the theatricalising of social justice issues; in particular, how we can use theatre as a medium to address rape culture. Hellie said, “Boy, have I got a project for you!” From there, Hellie and I worked very closely together on the ‘ideas’ portion of the show – researching real-life cases and exploring psychological, sociological and feminist perspectives on them.
TS: This documentary work draws on court transcripts and media articles and many other sources, but also features Xan Fraser, who the show is about, IN the show. What is working on a show with such deeply personal subject matter like when that person is with you onstage?
SD-H:Xan is a genuinely extraordinary person. I think many of us have expectations of what victims ‘should’ be like. Xan, though, is living, glorious proof that a crime is something that happens to you, not something that defines you. Xan still struggles with what she went through. She’ll have moments onstage when something triggers her; she’ll cry, and we all cry with her. But Xan is not ‘broken’: she’s fun and funny, very determined, and incredibly generous with her story. From the beginning she invited us to make her story our own and to feel safe working with this material. So to be honest, we’re all having fun working on this show. We all respect the material, obviously, but we’re not interested in wallowing in tragedy – we want to come together to try to make a difference.
TS: The show highlights some very important but very difficult issues. How do you approach those topics in a way that challenges the audience but keeps them actively engaged and not shutting off?
SD-H: I think the important thing when working with this kind of material is to remember the medium you’re working in and utilise the opportunities it affords you. We’re making a theatre piece, so there’s no point standing and delivering a lecture, political speech or newspaper op-ed. We’ve really tried to engage with all the eccentricities, complexities and possibilities of live performance. I know that’s not very specific, but you’ll have to come see the show for specifics! Ultimately, it’s been about finding how to present this information in ways that draw the audience in. We’ve tried our best to make a show that takes you with us on this admittedly difficult but worthwhile and important journey.
TS: While there has been significant media attention around some recent high-profile attacks (such as the Stanford Rape, Jill Meagher in Melbourne) this kind of behavior keeps happening. Has working on the show provided any answers for you as to why progress in this is so slow?
SD-H: We talk a lot about extreme cases in the media, but as a society we struggle to recognise the everyday nature of sexual threat and violence. Tom Meagher (Jill Meagher’s husband) wrote a fantastic piece on this subject. He talks about the danger of the “monster myth” – our tendency to characterise sexual predators as evil men lurking in darkened alleys waiting to assault women they’ve never met. The reality is that the large majority of victims are assaulted by people they know – people they would describe as friends, family members, or partners. The reality is that most women (I would personally argue all women) have been touched sexually without their consent, whether it’s a grope at a bar or a brush past on the bus. The reality is that most women have felt sexually threatened or humiliated at least once in their lives. The reality is that this happens to men too – perhaps not with the same frequency, but it certainly happens. We don’t talk about the banality of sexual threat, or of all the small behaviors that endorse and minimise it. We don’t talk about the fact that sexual predators don’t look evil – they look like you and me, and potentially like someone we love. If we only talk about the most extreme and horrifying examples of sexual violence (the tip of the iceberg, as it were), we will continue to ignore the teeming bulk of sexual assaults, sexual threats, misinformation and misogyny that lies beneath – meaning things will never get better. We must talk about this issue, and we must be clear about what we, as a society, expect from ourselves and from each other.
TS: Self-care is a major issue when working with heavy subject matter in an artistic context. What mechanisms do you have in place to switch off at the end of each day?
SD-H: One of the things that makes it possible to work with this material every day is our belief that we’re trying to make a difference. I think hopelessness is debilitating, but Project Xan is actually very much about hope. It’s about Xan’s hope that sharing her story will prevent other people from going through what she went through, and it’s about our hope as an ensemble that we can start a conversation about these issues and make a difference. You do have to remind yourself that you can only do so much at one time! You have to play with your dog, or go for a run, or drink a glass of wine (sometimes all three at once, but this takes serious coordination). We all believe talking about these issues can make a difference for the better, and we’re excited to be part of the conversation.
TS: What do you hope people will take away from the experience?
SD-H: We really hope people walk away with a better understanding of what it is people mean when they talk about ‘rape culture’, ‘slut shaming’, ‘harm minimisation’ or ‘victim blaming’. We hope they understand that sexual assault does not exist in a cultural vacuum – that it’s fostered by beliefs, values and everyday behaviors. Each and every one of us on this show, regardless of age or gender, has had a moment where we recognised something we had done that perpetuated harmful beliefs. That’s what we hope our audience can come to terms with, too. It’s not about blaming each other – it’s about taking steps to prevent sexual assault, and that starts with ourselves, our relationships, our friendship circles, and our children.
TS: What’s up next for you?
SD-H: For me personally? I’m going to walk my dog, go for a run, drink some wine and finish my thesis. What’s next for Project Xan? We hope the show has another life after this run. We’ll keep you posted…
jedda Productions’ Project Xan by Hellie Turner
8 – 19 November 2016 | PICA Performance Space