I’m driving home after the Queensland Theatre Company’s launch at Queensland Performing Arts Centre downtown Brisbane last night and thinking of how many people contributed to my show HOME…it began as a response to my second daughter’s SMS when she was living in Palestine. Homes were being bulldozed down and I began to think about what is home? I was reading her text as I sat on the back verandah (as so many of us do here in Brisbane) overlooking trees, hearing birds, no danger in sight. So I approached theatre director Leah Mercer, a colleague and dear friend (we had just created the award winning “Knowing of Mary Poppins” a couple of years before), and our process began. Leah is based in Perth so there were a lot of red eyed flights across the land. We tested our product as we went, we both took it to Mexico (a collaborative conference and HOME is based on collaborative practices) and then later Chicago (Theatre of the Oppressed Conference and HOME has been grown to be a community event to help re-author stories that may no longer serve us). Leah, Bev Jensen (another dear friend and fabulous visual artist who has journeyed with us for the last four years) and I began with a creative development at Metro Arts (2011) where we moved the seats in the Sue Benner and performed as theatre in the round complete with trapdoor. We were ably helped by a team of dedicated theatre lovers (Kate Caley, James Newton, Shilpi Rahman). We thought we would fit 30 punters, but we performed to 50+, people sitting on the stage with me. It was a glorious two days. Then David Berthold’s La Boite Indie decided to take HOME on board in 2012 and we had champions like Nicholas Paine and Adam Brunes. Warm up consisted of gypsy sticks, and Myffy who had just started her delicious stint as La Boite’s front of house manager, along with Nick, would come into the theatre and dance with gypsy sticks…we all warmed up together. Arlene Castle, our production manager/stage manager Gabby Castle’s mum was in charge of the devonshire teas that we served after the show and she collected a beautiful assortment of old teacups, tea pots and when there were scones left over she would wrap them with red ribbon and give them to our audience to take home and share. We did a community workshop with forty plus people. We created a Frame-It Project, where Gabby Castle, Aimee Dittmer and Rebecca Ward wandered the parks and markets taking pictures of what people saw as home.
The responses to our sell out season of HOME at La Boite were overwhelming, people responding to their own ideas and memories of their home and what it meant to them. We created a community event that had no beginning or end. Bev Jensen created an installation that people could walk through and touch. Her daughter visual artist Brenna Jensen helped create a video of HOME (Creative Development of HOME, Metro Arts, 2011). Markwell Productions created another video with highlights from La Boite season (Highlights of HOME: A STORY OF BELONGING La Boite season
But many of you don’t know this part of the story: in 2011 as we grew HOME, a small group of us used to meet weekly at Pullenvale where I live. We would bring food to share, we would sit in the garden and we would plan. We began to create garden rooms here at Pullenvale where performances could be held. We created a kitchen garden, a bedroom garden, a library garden and an Alice in Wonderland knock. We cooked almond biscuits, made aprons, made books, banners, tablecloths, wove paper,drank gallons of tea and learned what it meant to nourish each other at the same time as growing a show about nurturing. This process lasted a year, and it was one of the most nourishing years of my creative life. I looked forward to those Tuesday mornings. All five of the participants were collaborative therapists or student therapists and that was deliberate: we used the gatherings to thicken our understanding of what it is to be collaborative, how to help each other (and our audience) grow stories that transformed, empowered and generated new ways forward. The group consisted of Bev Jensen (visual artist), Kat Caley-White (collaborative therapist, visual artist, singer and teacher), James Newton (collaborative therapist) and Shilpi Rahman (collaborative therapist).
Now we are moving to Queensland Theatre Company in 2015. We will offer creative community workshops and we are hoping to incorporate some of the writings from those workshops into the performances. The season will be followed by a Queensland Tour (Artour).
I am excited about performing once again with Travis Ash, my youngest son. He has composed the music, he plays live and he performs about 6 monologues throughout the piece that shine a light on the world view, so that when I am at home, complaining about being a taxi driver for my four children, he then talks about the woman who nearly lost her son in the Children Overboard scandal. It was my second daughter Micaela who helped choose and write these monologues: I approached her with the thought of weaving international stories throughout HOME as a way of connecting this tiny piece of Brisbane with the entire world. Micaela is a creative writer as well as a trained lawyer and her eye is sharp. She came up with some wonderful stories. We chose many international as well as national stories, one of them a poignant story about a Vietnam vet, shared by Richard Jensen, Bev Jensen’s husband.
Thank you is never enough but it is all I can do right now: thank you to all the wonderful people who contributed to getting this show up…it takes a village to grow a show, and I love my village.
Behind any achievement there is always someone who is holding the reigns. I have a husband who always supports. Despite his own challenging work, he is always there to hear lines, make coffee and hold hands. Without my Bill, HOME would not be opening on 14th July, 2015 at Queensland Theatre Company.
Thank you Leah Mercer, my long time collaborator, who is opening our next show “Joey the Mechanical Boy” at Blue Room Perth, just after we finish “He Dreamed a Train”, the third show of the Belonging Trilogy.
He Dreamed a Train (a title I borrowed from my brother) opens at Brisbane Powerhouse on 15 October 2014. Directed by Circa’s Ben Knapton, and performed by Travis Ash and me, Train focuses on what happens when ruptures enter a family. We would love to have you come and experience a new way of storytelling: where the traditional meets the postmodern. Ben Knapton has specialised in audio visual performances and we are presently working magic in the rehearsal rooms at Brisbane Powerhouse (http://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2014/10/15/he-dreamed-a-train/).