Tuesday, February 09, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 814: Emilie Collyer

Emilie Collyer

Hometown:  Melbourne, Australia

Current Town:  Melbourne (with a welcome trip to New York!)

Q:  Tell me about The Good Girl.

A:  The Good Girl is set in a possible future world where people's lives  are tightly regulated and restricted. All sex work is carried out by  robots. The play tells the story of Anjali, a sexbot madam and Ven, a  maintenance guy. They start to push the boundaries of what their sexbot can do in response to what customers want. The piece digs into questions around power, ownership, exploitation and and the underlying violence in how women and the female body are perceived. It moves at a swift pace with rapid fire dialogue and moments of black humour.

Q:   What else are you working on now?

A:  I am currently working on a new play called Wing Attack Apocalypse.  I'm drawing on the myth of Cassandra and using the culture and structure of a netball game (a sport that is very big in Australia) to make a work about women, friendship and competitiveness. The play will combine text with a physical score. I'm excited to explore a world and performance style that is both poetic in its language and highly physical in its expression.

Q:   Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  When I was eight, I gathered a group of friends to reenact and stage our own version of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana. It was an all girl production. So I like to think it was the early seeds of my creative impulse, my love of collaboration and a propensity to take a known narrative and give it a little twist. I played Diana, my best friend Kayo was Charles. We made a very cute couple.

 Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I want to hear and see a greater diversity and broader range of voices, stories, narratives and forms. By that I mean work by women, people of colour, people with disabilities, people who cross gender, challenge gender, defy or ignore gender. Theatre, like many areas of the arts, is slowly playing catch up. The balance is shifting from what has traditionally been an art form dominated by a few narratives and perspectives, mostly white and male. Change is happening and it's thrilling. But it's also precarious this shift and it's on all of us to keep making space for voices and visions that haven't been heard and seen.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The play that made me want to write for theatre was Angels in America by Tony Kushner. It blew my mind. Heroes of the craft include Beckett for his bleak, but hopeful, absurdity and use of language and Chekhov for the way he creates situation, relationship and character. More contemporary writers I am inspired by include Caryl Churchill, Elfriede Jelinek and Maria Irene Fornes, who all grapple so brilliantly with language, form and human dilemmas.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  If I can be both delighted and disturbed I walk away a happy punter. I love theatre that pushes form and messes with what is possible. But there needs to also be a deep human question or cry at its heart in order for me to be really swept away. The most exciting piece of theatre I saw in 2015 was a show called Bronx Gothic by Okwui Okpokwasili, which was presented at Melbourne Festival, by Arts House, as part of an exchange with PS122.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Do a lot of messy, weird work, write, write, write, lots of words. Get out and see stuff. Lots of stuff. Go to play readings and performances of new work and also classics and much loved plays. Throw your work into the ring slightly before you feel ready. A workshop, a reading, four friends and wine. Get out and meet theatre makers. You need a community and luckily theatre is a broad church. If you see work you love, tell the people who made it. Passion and genuine connection is what leads to relationships and longevity.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: http://www.joyseekerstheatre.com/#!the-good-girl/ctzx

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