Melt Festival has everything, even instant cameras! This is an HIV display complete with live people handing out gifts
MELT FESTIVAL BRISBANE POWERHOUSE
This week has been a good one. So much happening in Brisbane or about to happen in Brisbane. I have just finished a week of being involved in Melt Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse which is one of the most alive venues in Brisbane at the moment, with beautiful restaurants WATT and Alto, a very alive bar that sells good things, two terrific theatres, a studio, art galleries and open spaces for performance.
Adam Gardnir moved to Brisbane recently to take up a position as producer for BPH and one of his gigs was to produce Melt Festival. He rang me and asked if I would be part of Gaybies, a verbatim piece of performance to be read, rather than performed, sharing the stories of children of gay people. The stories were short, sharp, funny, poignant and worthy of a show. It had been done in both Melbourne and Sydney and now it was Brisbane’s turn.
(A side note, and future post: I can’t wait for that to reverse, that we have brilliant and important shows premiering in Brisbane and then Melbourne and Sydney want to buy them…a few weeks ago I read Sam Strong’s message (Sam is the new artistic director of Queensland Theatre Company) to the artists/people of Brisbane and he said something like “We will lead Australian Theatre from Brisbane”…and I can’t tell you how excited I was to read that… what I want to dream on is that all our theatre companies and artists come together and collaborate together, then wild wonder could happen!).
Our first session of a two day rehearsal period
BACK TO GAYBIES: We met last Monday, introduced ourselves and the magic began. For some reason this particular group of people from our Brisbane community opened their hearts to each other. A tad tentative at first, we gradually became friends. Kris Stewart, the artistic director of Brisbane Powerhouse set the tone of the rehearsal room: fun, light, fast and committed. We were a mixed bunch, ages ranging from 17 though to 63. Some of us were professional actors, but most of us weren’t. We were administrators of organisations, teachers, army majors soon to be politician (yeah Pat), festival directors (our very own David Berthold), magicians, advocates, school students, writers, counsellors, musicians, singers, composers, company directors, theatre critics and radio announcers. We were many things and most of all each of us had a deep interest in equity and the importance of sharing stories that normally are not heard.
Along with Kris we had Joseph Simons (a fabulous choreographer/dancer and now director) in the room assisting Kris, Jason Glenwright as lighting designer and for the set we pulled together a couple of portable tables, an assortment of chairs, found a piano, old toys, art materials, cake.
We were ready to begin.
MELT: A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture 2016
Curtain Call (there are more of us, they are either side of us)
What I loved about the week was the intense energy: we were all experts in our own fields and when you get a group of very dedicated and focused people together on the floor there’s enormous respect and energy. A deep acceptance of different ways of being in the the world. Rehearsals were loud, fast and alive. People came and went, sometimes caught up in their professional lives so we had a couple of people who played multiple roles so that we could cater for other gigs that were programmed at the same time.
We were each given a large hard covered book sourced from a second hand bookshop (mine was a thriller) and inside that book was the script, carefully pasted onto the pages of the novel. So there we were, two folding tables, art supplies, streamers, poppers and a hard covered book with the script inside. We began to highlight our personal text as we read and re-read the verbatim piece. We had limited freedom: we were not to learn the text and we could only move as directed due to lights and rhythm. That is sometimes an extremely creative opportunity because we then had to work inside a very small perimeter. Our job was to find small movements (what we call ‘business’ in the theatre) that added to the different textual meanings, yet did not pull focus. That is the most joyous part of the theatrical experience because it embeds you in the story. I spied an old tricycle upstage and some fairy wings. I did not logically think “I can use this” I just knew that if I placed them next to me, the action would emerge. And it did. Though there are pitfalls when working on action within a reading (balancing a heavy script with physicality can get tricky)… one night I was so involved in my fellow actors story, I was leaning in, totally focused, and at the same time I was trying to re-create a small animal made of pipe cleaners. Suddenly there was silence…
“Oh,OH OH, my, I think that’s me” I say in a very loud voice. After the audience and my fellow performers had stopped laughing at my expense (I adored it too) I proceeded with enormous vigour. Sometimes in verbatim theatre pieces (or for that matter any piece of theatre where the actors are talking directly to their audience) this very act of “messing up” joins us more fully with our audience. We begin to collude. Audiences love to see humanity on the stage and the rawest humanity possible is when an actor misses their cue, joins their audience with joyous laughter, and moves on.
We rehearsed for two short days. We performed for four wonderful days. Mostly we had large houses and the audience showed their appreciation with laughter, joy and attentive listening. After the shows we would move out the Alto Bar and continue the conversations with relatives, friends and people we had never met before.
GAYBIES PRESENTED BY BRISBANE POWERHOUSE
Hotly political and deeply personal, Gaybies shares the intimate real-life stories of children from same-sex parents, surrogate mums, donor dads, co-parents and guardians.
Directed by Kris Stewart (Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director) and written by Dean Bryant, you’ll see a cast of local performers and community members bring to life this funny, charming, heart-warming and inspiring show. This is for everyone who cares for our greatest asset: children.
We are thrilled to announce the amazing cast for Gaybies:
Barbara Lowing, Actor
Bec Zanetti, Actor
Blair Martin, Queer Commentator, 4zzz
Brad Rush, The Arts Centre Gold Coast
Brittany Francis, Actor
Christopher Wayne, Celebrity Magician
David Berthold, Brisbane Festival Artistic Director
Emily Gilhome, Actor
Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director Australian Voices
Kurt Phelan, Actor
Libby Anstis, Brisbane Powerhouse Board Member
Lizzie Moore, Actor & Cabaret Star
Margi Brown Ash, Actor & Mental Health Advocate
Pam Barker, Gay & Lesbian Business Network
Pat O’Neil, Labor Candidate for Brisbane
Rebecca McIntosh, Sex TV Host & Personality
Xanthe Coward, Journalist
This event is part of MELT: A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture 2016.
I think everyone should take every opportunity to volunteer for a community show, a coming together of rare and wonderful humans who have focused their energies outside of theatre, yet have that same passion and commitment that we all relish.
You know how I mentioned we had a radio announcer? Well some of us ended up at 4ZZZ chatting to Bec Mac, the extraordinary Brisbane performer who has enormous energy and passion. Never without a funny quip Bec Mac is someone we are going to see a lot more of.
We turned up at 4zzz, only to have to wait for one of our guests who thought we were meeting that evening. All good. Usually its me who gets the time skewed. We all made it and had a terrific chat abou the show and its impact and we finished with a talk about the importance of community shows and how they can change the landscape one person at atime.
Melt Festival is on for another week. I’ll be there next week seeing Joe Simons First Things First, a show that has toured Autralia and now has its first showing in Brisbane (Dance Australia said this about Joe: “Joseph is an engaging personality…a marvel to watch”).
See you there?