May 16, 2012
An Australian expat in New York for the past several years, Alexandra Collier was introduced to me by a mutual friend who put us in touch for a well-timed coffee date while Alexandra visited Sydney for the Sydney Theatre Company reading of her play, Underland. After her return to the U.S., we coordinated international schedules to have this conversation about the influence expat life has on her artistic life, studying with Mac Wellman, and her upcoming collaborative show Off-Broadway at the Women’s Project.
I can write as many American characters as I like, I can write plays set in America, but my voice, my ear is Australian.
How long have you been living in the U.S.? What made you go there, in the first place?
I’ve been here six years in May. I moved here initially because I was training with the SITI Company. I did their six-week Saratoga training program upstate at Skidmore, so I came over to do that. I’d trained with them before in New York, and I just really loved New York. I had a really good time. I was basically an actor back then – ostensibly the SITI Company summer training in Skidmore is for actors, and directors and writers, but it’s more of an actor based training.
I packed up all my stuff in Australia, and I decided I was going to move to New York. (more…)
March 8, 2012
Tom Holloway’s deceptively simple family drama Red Sky Morning captured my imagination unlike any play I’d read in ages. One of the most frequently produced playwrights in Australia today, I find Holloway’s work tends towards the provocative, often poking into dark crevices of human nature. He recently workshopped a new play, Faces Look Ugly, at Playwriting Australia’s National Play Festival, and we found a quiet corner in the midst of the busy Malthouse Theatre lobby to talk about his work, influences and process.
“If we don’t get a true understanding of something that’s dark, perhaps we can’t help, or do our best to prevent it happening more. Theatre is a safe place for that, and that’s something that I think is important for us to do, generally.”
Will you tell me a bit about your origins as a playwright? Were you involved in theatre before you started writing, or were you a writer who got into theatre?
I was born and grew up in Hobart in Tasmania, and I did a lot of theatre all the way through school. I always loved it, loved the story telling and the pretending. (more…)
November 23, 2011
Earlier this year, I took a train two hours out of town to Wollongong to see Sydney-based documentary company Version 1.0 premier The Table of Knowledge. The experience of seeing this piece, based on a fiery local political scandal, proved well worth the trip. CEO David Williams was later kind enough to let me read some of the company’s other works, all of which are theatricalized from existing source material. He sat down with me at the company’s office for a conversation about Version 1.0’s niche in the theatre world, and their philosophies and processes.
“You don’t just want to preach to the converted and tell people what they already know. They might suspect that they know things, but you want to shake up those expectations.”
Will you give me an overview of what type of work Version 1.0 does?
Version 1.0 is a theatre company that makes devised works using documentary materials, usually around political scandal, although that has expanded a little bit over the years. We do make documentary theatre, but unlike some of the other big international companies like Tricycle and Tectonic Theatre Company, we use a lot of video in our works. Also, in most cases, we don’t have a single writer or director: They are devised by groups of people from documentary materials. (more…)
October 25, 2011
Some time ago, an American colleague dropped me a line to suggest that I get to know Ross Mueller and his plays. Reading his work, I was struck by the lyricism of his words and the diversity of form from one piece to another. Newly installed as the Artistic Director at Geelong’s Courthouse ARTS, the jovial and insightful Mueller etched out some time in his schedule to talk with me about a range of topics, including his process, his experience with overseas residencies, and how being an Artistic Director is impacting his work as a writer.
“When (audiences) are coming to a new work, it is important to give them something they haven’t expected, and that they are treated with respect.”
I read four of your plays; Zebra!, A Beautiful Gesture, Construction of the Human Heart, and, Concussion, and was struck by how stylistically different each one was. Can you tell me a bit about your process? Where do you start? And how do you find your way to the form?
When I approach a new work, I’m looking at story first. I come to find my way to the form through the content.
I feel that in theatre we have the opportunity to play with form more than you do in some other mediums. It’s about a community experience of taking an audience on a journey into a different world. (more…)
August 9, 2011
I crossed paths with Lachlan Philpott when he was workshopping his mysterious and melodious new play, The Trouble With Harry, at Playwriting Australia’s National Script Workshop. Between then and when we recently sat down for a conversation at a Newtown cafe, he was nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work and opened the Melbourne production of his much lauded play Silent Disco, among other things. It’s a busy time to be Lachlan Philpott, and he talked to me about the realities of getting new work produced, his love of collaboration, and why the new play sector is like the airport.
“Theatre is one of the only places where you can play with language still, where people have to listen to it.”
Your play Silent Disco received a great deal of critical and audience acclaim. Has this play been a pivotal point in your career?
Definitely. It’s really exciting. A lot of theatre companies didn’t know whether it was going to work on stage, so I am very grateful to Griffin, HotHouse, and atyp for taking a risk on it. (more…)
July 28, 2011
It was late night for Christine Evans, and morning the next day for me when we spoke – she in her Providence, Rhode Island home, and I in Sydney. I was particularly keen to get Christine’s insights on the differences and similarities between Australian and American theatre because she has been living in the U.S. for over a decade, which gives her a unique cultural vantage point. Not only did she tell me about Australian theatre, but she gave me new glimpses into my own native culture, from her “in-between” perspective.
“Making the transition has forced me to be an internationalist. I feel that I don’t quite belong anywhere. It is the collisions between things that really catch my ear and eye now.”
How long have you been in the U.S. and what brought you there?
I have been here nearly 11 years. I moved over here to do the MFA in Playwriting at Brown, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. After the MFA, I had only been here two years, and I felt that I was only starting to get my feet, (more…)
July 23, 2011
With kids on school holidays, Hilary Bell had a full schedule when I asked her if she’d talk with me for this project. Undeterred, Hilary offered up her kitchen table as a place for a chat. Over tea and cake, she told me about her love of Sondheim, her experiences at Julliard, what it was like growing up in a theatrical family, and why being a part of 7-On is so important to her.
“Being a playwright is always ultimately collaborative because you don’t write just for yourself, but for the many interpretations that come between you and the audience; but, there is a period where you can sit in your room for many months with no one to talk to. While I enjoy that, I am at a point where I am looking to work with dancers, and painters, and aerial acrobats, and see what else theatre can be.”
I am struck by the uniqueness of your style. It hardly seems to fit easily into a “category.” Do you have a way of describing your style?
For a long time, my aim was to never repeat what I had done. That was not because I wanted to dazzle and be brilliant, but to see what was out there and explore different possibilities. (more…)
July 23, 2011
Noëlle Janaczewska sat down with me over an afternoon cup of coffee for a wide-ranging, honest conversation about the place of experimental work in the current landscape, her wish list for Australian theatres, and the ambitious projects that the 7-ON writers group is up to these days.
“I am interested in experimentation, in innovation, in exploring form and language. I don’t aspire to write narrative drama for mainstage subscription seasons. I never have.”
Can you tell me a bit about how you became a writer?
By a gradual morphing. I came through punk music, alternative cabaret, political and street theatre in England, moved into the independent theatre sector and then started writing. (more…)
July 23, 2011
Chatting with me by phone from her Footscray, VIC home, Shannon Murdoch was game enough to be my first ‘guinea pig’ for The Australian Theatre Project. We talked day jobs, new play development, and her recent Yale Drama Series Award.
“When The New York Times was trying to figure out where Footscray was, I knew life was not going to be the same.”
How do you describe your style?
I guess it is sort of a heightened realism. I don’t think about it when I’m writing, but it’s realism in a heightened emotional state. (more…)