News, Politics, world events

on a week of grief, horror, media and telling the story of humans

It wasn’t even a year ago that I wrote this:

I don’t want talk about Charlie Hebdo. I’ve been silent since the attacks happened. I don’t just mean social media silent: for three days I paced my parent’s house, listlessly agonising over four typed paragraphs, which I never posted. My mother kept catching me staring vacantly at bits of wall, my blank page or my muted computer screen. All I will say is that my un-ranted rant, still sitting on my computer ended with this:

“Je ne suis pas Charlie et je ne suis pas Ahmed. Je suis Australienne and I cannot begin to understand the full complexities of this horrific event from where I stand.”

I am still endeavouring to embrace and acknowledge my ignorance in all matters of world politics. Because my ignorance is a privilege: I am (still) that Australian, sitting in comfort and safety on the other side of the world, and the ignorance of terror is a blessing. But this week I found the voice I could not find in February. It is a voice struggling to understand what little I could possibly begin to understand but I want to struggle publicly. I’m sure that many of you are struggling also.

I’ve been writing a lot on social media and today I decided to gather what I wrote into one place along with a few new thoughts I’ve had in the last few days. My thoughts on terror, grief and the media are evolving constantly so I will lay my thoughts out in approximately the order that they came to me and then Fleur of Today will respond to the Fleur of Last Week in a letter about the linguistic differences between reporting on Paris and Beirut.

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Tributes outside of Le Carillon in Paris. Photo: Guillauma Payen

November 15th – Four days since the attacks on Beirut, three days since the attacks on Paris.

Just a gentle word: This is the second horrific attack on Paris in less than a year. It is also the second time I have seen friends turn from horror to… What I can only describe as a backlash in less than twenty-four hours.

You are right: the media does not cover all acts of violence and terror equally and this is terrible. But, when commenting on this, please do so with an awareness that there are probably French people in shock among your friends. There are people with family and friends in Paris and there are people for whom that city means a great deal and they are grieving. If you have a connection to a place, it can be an incredibly difficult thing to see it suffer from afar.

I don’t say this to imply that there are not people grieving for Beirut and that these horrors can be talked of with any less care or consideration but write and rage with sensitivity: we are talking about acts of extreme violence and these things must always be spoken of with care.

Personally, I have enough sorrow to spread between the acts of terror I have followed this week and right now, I don’t want to be told that I am grieving wrong. I am a person of Middle Eastern descent and the continued violence there never ceases to distress me. Believe me. Just tell these stories of our world with love and compassion and an awareness that we are all still reeling from the violence we have witnessed in the last few days.

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A man sits by a memorial to Paris in Rio de Janerio. Photo: CNN

November 18th – Six days since Beirut, seven days since Paris

I posted this comment attached to this article by Emma Kelly entitled “The media did cover the attacks on *insert country here*. You just weren’t reading it.”:

So this article is quite accusatory and aggressive but I think it is a good reminder: the media covers news from all around the world but some parts of the world get significantly more coverage than others because analytics show what we are most interested in reading. Remember that, in 2015, we are the media. News sites know what we read and share. It is our job to tell them that we care about our global community and that we want to know what is happening all around us. Read the international news. Share things you think your friends should know about to be thoughtful, informed and compassionate global citizens. Don’t just get angry at the media like it is something you have no power over. We have a lot of power over our media. We should use it.

I also want to acknowledge that part of the reason I think our society responds more to attacks in Paris is because it is a country we think of as safe. There is no denying that we are more ‘shocked’ (read as negative version of ‘surprised’) by these attacks because we presume these things happen all the time in Beirut.

We need to make it our duty, as media consumers and humans, to never normalise violence, wherever it is happening. As painful as it is (and it is very, very painful), we must retain our shock and horror. We must remember that violence is never every day. Never a way of life.

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Relatives grieve at a funeral procession in Beirut’s Burk al-Barajneh neighbourhood. Photo: Wael Hamzeh


Today, November 22nd – 10 days after Beirut and 11 days after Paris

Today (four days older and more informed) I responded to the me of the past.

Dear Fleur of the Past,

I don’t want to sound patronising because I know that you are trying hard and because Fleur of the Future will no doubt have a few things to say to me soon but the issue is more complicated than just whether or not the media is covering events. It is more complicated even than what stories consumers are sharing. Perhaps a good question to ask is why some stories are shared and others aren’t. What is it in the coverage of the Paris attacks that connects with our emotions so instantly?

I think there are many extremely complicated reasons but this is one that you, as a storyteller, should be aware of: The media tells stories of France/England/America/New Zealand/Canada/countriesthatwearequicktoassociatewith in a very particular and very humanising way. This is vastly different than the way it tells the stories of Syria/Gaza/Nigeria/Iraq/Afganistan/South Sudan/countriesthatweareslowtoassociate with.

Fleur of the Past, there are two key differences that I would like to bring to your attention. The first is the detail used in reportage of Paris. We hear about the cafes, the stadium, we know what rock band was playing: a clear picture is painted, a stage is set. Into this we put detailed portraits of people. We are told that the victims were mothers, fathers, fiancés, girlfriends, boyfriends. A twitter account sprung up (@ParisVictims) that pays tributes to victims as individuals. One tweet per devastating loss. Whilst 140 characters is far too few in which to sum up a life, you would be hard pressed to find a comparable level of individual treatment given to the Beirut victims in the English-speaking media.

So on the one hand we have a sparseness of detail and yet the reporting of Beirut suffered from an overabundance of clarifications, very particular details that often serve to make the victims seem less like individuals and more like a movement. In other words, the become more culpable for the violence enacted upon them. In other words, much reporting was linguistically guilty of subtle victim blaming. The New York Times tweeted “Blast Hits Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut, killing dozens. Worst bombing there in years”. As far as I can gather, this was also the initial title of their article on the attacks although this was soon changed to the slightly less militaristic “Deadly blast hits Hezbollah area”, then to “Deadly Blast hits crowed neighbourhood” after readers’ enraged responses. It now reads “Isis claims responsibility for blast that killed dozens in Beirut”.

Less that 24 hours after the attack, an opinion piece in the Huffington Post stated that the tragedy was expected. “It was a matter of time before residents of Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah-controlled suburb of Beirut Lebanon, were bombed again.”

Fleur of the Past, you are right: the media are reporting on violent attacks in the Middle East but it is how they tell the story that should be worrying you. You were also right to feel capable of changing how you consume and share media. I stand by your sentiment that in 2015 “we are the media”. Just remember to search for the human details within the reporting and to ask about the language used to qualify acts of violence. Keep the media human. Keep your eyes open. Remember that what ‘the news’ is, are people.


Fleur of the Rapidly Disappearing Present

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Samer Huhu’s image is held up at his funeral by a grieving relative. Photo: Joseph Eid

November 21st – 9 days after Beirut, 8 days after Paris, the day of the Mali attacks

A week in your world

Many of you have posted in the last week about dissatisfaction with media coverage of world events. Here is my contribution to your newsfeed. This all happened in the world this week:

Indonesia has halted execution of death row prisoners due to its struggling economy but says it will resume killing once they sort their shit out. There are currently 138 people on death row including 57 for drug-related offences.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne a young woman announced on Facebook that she had been sober for a fortnight, which was bloody wonderful.

In Nigeria two female suicide bombers killed at least 15 people and injured more than 100 when they blew themselves up in a mobile phone market. One of the bombers was 11 and one was 18. Another suicide attack in another Nigerian city left 32 dead. To date 20,000 people have been killed in the Boko Haram uprising, which started four years ago.

Meanwhile, a little girl allowed to pick her own outfit for the day chose her Elsa costume. She was by far the happiest person in the Safeway supermarket.

A Palestinian man entered a shop in Tel Aviv selling Jewish religious items. He stabbed and killed two men who were praying there. The man told police that he entered Israel with the intent to kill Jews. An hour and a half later on the West Bank, another Palestinian man opened fire on a traffic jam killing 3 people, one an Israeli, one a Palestinian and one an American tourist. It was the worst day of violence for the city in almost 2 months. It had been a quiet week up to that point and check points were beginning to come down.

Somewhere, a woman named Barbara was introduced to her newest grandson via Skype. Both cried.

In the USA, more than half of the state governors of have refused to take any Syrian refugees into their states. The Federal government has attempted to reassure the states that the systems and checks they have in place are strong and the majority of the refugees are women and children, many of whom have been waiting more than two years to be settled. It seems that this is not an easy week to ask people to think sensibly and not give in to their fear.

After months of therapy, a 58-year-old man walked 6 meters into his wife’s open arms. A room of people cheered.

In Australia, 22 disease-free Tasmanian Devils, bred in Sydney, were released into the Tasmania bush in a bid to save their species. Since 1996 and the discover of the Devil Face Tumor, the devil population has plummeted to around 10,000 from an estimated 250,000.

And someone somewhere drew eyebrows on their dog.

fleur dog

This Wednesday, Britain announced that it aims to close its coal-fired power plants by 2025, becoming the first major economy to put a date on shutting coal plants to curb carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, visiting Australia ahead of the Paris Climate Change conference, has called for a global moratorium on new coal mines and coal mine expansions. He says even this will not save his island nation: “Yes it is already too late but I think this makes it all the more urgent that we do something about it,” I heard President Tong tell the ABC on Thursday as I ate my lunch in the hot, dusty dark of Tuxedo Cat. “We are running out of time,” he said. When asked what he would like to say to Malcolm Turnbull he replied “Talk to the scientists… We’ve gone too far. We are about to go over the edge.”

All this happened in your world this week. Tell me some other things, big and small, that happened also. Let’s stay connected to each other as people, as individuals, as caring and articulate global citizens. Thank you.



A massive thank you to Margaret Lloyd for the use of her computer. I broke mine a fortnight ago and the lack of computer has been driving my absolutely mad. I knew I couldn’t put together something this big via iPhone. I really appreciate the loan. 

I am going to try to write a news update weekly for the next two months. I want to know if this changes how I relate to the news and what it does for my friends. Let me know if you would like me to post them here or if Facebook is sufficient. 



acts of violence, part 3: guest blogger bridget mackey in conversation with theatre-makers about violence.

Part 3: Conversation with Rachel Perks

Dear School for Birds Readers, it has taken me far longer than I would have liked to get this conversation with playwright Rachel Perks out into the world, please forgive me. Rachel Perks is a kick-arse feminist and all round talented human. I met up with Rachel back in March to talk about her play Angry Sexx for which she received the 2014 Fringe Discovery Award.

I began the interview by asking Rachel about her use of violence in Angry Sexx.

Rachel:  I guess I have a difficult relationship to violence. I consider myself to be a pacifist and I don’t advocate any form of violence in the real world. So, the fact that I write violent characters is definitely problematic for me. However, I feel like physical violence perpetrated by women is so unusual and controversial that it has such potency as an idea. Through the characters ‘Cathy’ and ‘Cybelle’ in Angry Sexx I was exploring the radical idea that in order to have a world of equality we would need to scrap everything and start again. Angry Sexx is this pretty sad story about characters who fight against their perpetrators in the same way they were oppressed. I get terribly nihilistic sometimes and I look around and I think there’s no way to change the system from the outside. You have to work within the system and use the ways that they are already set up.

Bridget: I think theatre is powerful because it offers a space where we can, at least on the world of the stage, shift dominant power structures.

Rachel:  Yeah, I mean, it’s a very subversive medium. I read recently On Rage by Germain Greer, which I found deeply problematic for a lot of racial reasons, but at the beginning of the book she talks about how by societal definition ‘rage’ is masculine and that our world is set up to perpetuate this idea from a legal standpoint – that men have inner rage and that women, I’m generalising, that women will provoke that rage and therefore, should have known better. And the Provocation Defence, I believe, no longer exists in a lot of societies. The point being that there is no such defence of women. Even on a societal, not just a legal level, rage is seen as unnatural for woman. Whereas I think – I am a woman and I am engraged regularly.

Bridget: But it’s like, if women are enraged it’s perceived as hysteria or psychosis.

Rachel: I’ve been reading this article about medication for mental health issues and having lots of discussions about that. And statistically women are more likely to be medicated for mental illness than men are. I don’t know if that’s because women are more open to being treated. It’s difficult to judge statistically those kinds of things. But yeah, it’s like that kind of underlying misogynistic idea that emotions are unacceptable and women have a lot of emotions. There are a lot of ideas coming into this. Someone raised this really interesting idea about self-harm with me. Statistically women are more likely to self-harm than men are. This person suggested that male self-harm is more about going out and finding someone to hit you – like punching a wall, this is male self-harm, this kind of expressive rage. Whereas female self-harm is internalised and inflicted on the self in a much more focused way.

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Ollie Coleman in Angry Sexx. Photograph by Sarah Walker.

Bridget:  There’s a distressing scene in Angry Sexx, where the character ‘The Wife’ talks to herself in the mirror while she’s self-inducing vomiting. I found this a really violent scene. It seems to me like ‘The Wife’ is what women become if they don’t have another outlet for their rage. Rage seems to be a toxic thing. And you don’t get rid of violence by perpetuating it. It seems people get addicted to violence so it happens in cycles.

Rachel: Especially if you are violent in response to the world or to a situation or a system, you’re going to continue to have those feelings. Violence might save the immediate emotion but it won’t change the problem. So you’ll continue to feel that anger and injustice in relation to the problem. I guess the play is semi-autobiographical, which is a dangerous thing to say considering the content. And at the time I was writing Angry Sexx I was running on this path where there were reports of women being attacked and molested. And these were repeated attacks over a series of months and writing this play was my act of violence. I will yell at people on the street if people yell at me. I know that must be really dangerous and stupid but I refuse to be limited in my expression in that way. And I think if more women did it we would have a different world. I just scream back at people. And actually, that act is so impotent and all of the actions that I could have are impotent, and so this play was my act of violence. In that I feel like an actual physical act of violence, like I said, doesn’t actually change the world or satiate the feeling. Theatre is often similarly impotent.  But it is my attempt to actually change something through expression.

Bridget: I think we’re constantly being told stories of female passivity.

Rachel:  I read this article about how a strong Female Hero character has to exhibit almost borderline sociopathic qualities in order to be ‘believable’ in a position of authority.  If a male character was like that you’d be like ‘that person is crazy.’ Then there’s the Female Character who is unnecessarily sexualised, where you’re thinking um… why is she not wearing anything? And then the one that I think is the most insidious is the Male Saviour Complex. Which is that narratively, a woman will be strong for a period of time and as reward for her strength she is given a man who will look after her so she no longer has to carry the burden of individuality. It’s every rom-com happy ending. It’s every fairy-tale. I think that it is in most stories we consider good stories. The only thing I’ve seen where I was struck by the diversion of that storyline was in Boyhood.

Bridget: I haven’t seen it.

Rachel: – I won’t spoil it.

Bridget: Do you think violence has a place on stage generally?

Rachel: I think literal representation of violence on stage is often awful, because it’s so hard to do well in any convincing manner. I, like you, really struggle with violence perpetuated against women in film.

Bridget:  There’s so much of it.

Rachel: There’s so much of it. It’s fetished, it’s glorified, it’s disgusting. It’s violence porn most of the time. I’ve really struggled with it recently, to the point where I’m not interested in consuming any of it. Because I feel it’s so often there without any discussion. If you have to put it there do it because you want to have a discussion, not because you want to shock people. I recently watched The Fall, with Gillian Anderson. I initially struggled because it’s the oldest crime story in the book, it’s a male serial killer, sexually assaulting and killing women, but the way that it’s structured and discussed is so beautiful. This is a bit of a spoiler but there’s this bit where Gillian Anderson, the head cop, is talking to a serial killer. He is not portrayed as this glorified, sociopathic, white male ego, where we’re all meant to have a crush on him, while being disgusted while he violently kills women. Which is the way that most of this stuff is done, either that or it perpetuates the monster complex, the idea that he’s somehow outside of society, instead of within society. Gillian Anderson’s character has this speech where she says to the serial killer ‘what you are doing is nothing more than age old misogyny. It is hatred against women and it is something that men have been performing since the dawn of time, and it’s disgusting.’ And I’m like fuck yes! No one has this discussion on screen. I guess, unless you’re going to investigate on a realistic level, why society continues to perpetuate and glorify violence against women, then don’t talk about it all.

Bridget: I’ll definitely watch it!


Gillian Anderson in The Fall. 

Rachel: I struggle with violent stories being shown on stage if they’re shown in a way that isn’t trying to do something with that. But I write political theatre and I’m interested in political theatre. I’m disinterested in anything that uses anything in a way that isn’t trying to make a comment on the world, so that’s my prerogative.  Otherwise I don’t see the point of doing it, I really don’t. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to put on a play, that isn’t making strong commentary. It takes so much time, it costs so much money and so many favours, and so many friendships are tested in the processes. Why would you do it unless you really really really really wanted to change the world? As stupidly aspirational as that is.

Bridget:  Have you ever seen theatre which has motivated you to change the world? Or do you think, like we’re saying, in just presenting narratives that shift the power dynamic – well, for me anyway, that’s the way that theatre is powerful and political.

Rachel: I think I have. I think I’ve seen works that do it in more of a nebulous fashion, where they are more like a meditation on an idea, like Nicola Gunn’s Green Screen. I walked out of that and I felt like it was worth continuing to care, because I felt allied with someone else who was so honestly caring. I’d love to be able to make work like that, work that meditates rather than screams. And I think that’s just about continuing to make work. I remember someone telling me that you’ll only ever have one idea and you just keep making more and more sophisticated versions of that idea. Angry Sexx was my first play, the first play I ever put on and that was kind of the first way of talking about this stuff, and I’ll just keep making the play. And eventually it will become more sophisticated and more and more capable of changing people, where people will be less kind of affronted or put off side.


Green Screen by Nicola Gunn. Photograph by Pier Carthew.

Bridget: Were people put off side by Angry Sexx?

Rachel: I guess the work was a lot about me having an opportunity to say stuff because I just couldn’t contain it. I had a lot of strangers writing to me, people who tracked me down and found me on Facebook, people saying that they felt in some small way changed by it. That they felt more aware, or a lot of women saying stuff like that had happened to them and it didn’t even cross there mind that it was something that they could protest, which was good and valuable and incredibly humbling. It’s a very scary feeling that you might have given someone an idea because it’s very hard to believe that you’re actually right. I felt really right that I was putting ideas out there but I started feeling really scared that maybe I was lying to everyone. Look, it went better in every single way that I could have possibly expected. And I felt like it made a tiny little ripple. So that was good.

Since this conversation Rachel has co-written the critically acclaimed We Get It with Elbow Room, and along with collaborator Bridget Balodis, has been selected as an artist for Next Wave 2016. You can see her skills in action at 45 Downstairs where she has been working as a dramaturg on Vicky Jones’ The One as part of the upcoming Poppy Seed Festival.

Afterword: I am incredibly grateful to Rachel Perks, Chi Vu and Daniel Lammin for speaking to me about their opinions on violence in theatre. Their insights have stayed with me throughout the year as I’ve watched, performed and written for the theatre. An important point that was brought up by all three writers was that theatre-makers must be able to justify the use of violence in their work, otherwise it’s just gratuitous. As to my own enjoyment of violence on stage, I think I’m still working that one out. Thanks Fleur for having me as a guest blogger on School For Birds. 


letters, mental health, Monash, personal, self care

a letter: to new artists, graduates and emerging theatre makers

Dear graduates,

Congratulations. You’ve finished your degree and you are about to enter a truly wonderful industry. There is so much support and love within our community. There is playfulness, joy, adrenaline, terror, celebration and plenty of sweaty hugs in your future.


But this is also an industry that values overwork, demands vulnerability and offers little stability. It is an industry with incredibly high rates of mental illness, stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide. Because of this, I can’t let you leave the relative safety of the university without saying a few words about self-care.

Depression, isolation and mania are woven into the mythology of arts. The concept of late-18th Century, romanticised melancholy, is still caught up in our ideas of how art gets made: that genius goes hand-in-hand with darkness and insanity.

Melancholy was also a state of being reserved for those who were intellectually and spiritually superior. Did you know that? Back in the day, not all people could experience all emotions. Grief, depression, sorrow, melancholy and even love – real grand, noble love – those were things reserved for the rich, the royal, the educated, the knighted and, yes, the artistic. The rest of us experienced drunkenness, laziness and malcontent. Isn’t that the most extreme form of elitism you’ve ever heard of? Some emotions are too complex for the rough of hand.

And I know: depression and melancholy are two different things today. One is an emotional state and the other is a mental illness. But I just had to say all that because history glorifies them and it weaves them into the mythology of my industry and that scares me. Accepting darkness as part of artistic practice can lead to some scary stuff.

It can lead to artists not seeking help when they need it. Not saying, “this doesn’t feel like a healthy way to work.” Not carving out a space for their own well being within their practice.


These are some truths I know:

  • Art is too hard to feel shit whilst making it.
  • Art is too hard to make with people who do not respect you and your work.
  • Art is too wonderful not to do joyously.

As an artist, your mind and body are your tools. They deserve to be looked after. If, however, you are someone who struggles to justify spending time on yourself, look at it as time spent on your colleagues and collaborators: in this collaborative art form, the best gift you can bring to the rehearsal room, the thing that will give your cast and crew confidence, courage and a sense of freedom, is a mind and body that is ready to work.

Now is the time to put in place systems and practices that will help you create a sustainable career. This will look different for everyone (some exercises meant to lull me to sleep only served to make me lie awake thinking about how I was so bad at sleep that I needed exercises) so it is worth putting time and effort into establishing a routine that works for you. Prioritise this. Prioritise this now. Mid-crisis is not going to be the best time to work out a system.


Here are some tips or pieces of advice that have helped me. They may not work for you but hopefully they might start you thinking.

  1. Enjoy the journey to where you are heading. You probably won’t graduate and instantly step into an established company or funded solo practice and that is fine. Enjoy. Be playful. Take the risks it is hard to take once you have money and a company behind you.
  2. Try to be inspired instead of jealous when your peers achieve.
  3. Know that your self-worth is not dependent on your creative output. If you are between projects, working slowly or taking time off art to ensure your financial stability, that is so, so fine. Every artist ever has done this. Remember that you deserve your own kindness and consideration whether you are making art or not.
  4. Listen to your body. I and so many other artists out there have bodies that tell them when they are working too hard. For me it is muscle spasms in my face and pain in my arm. As soon as I feel these things, I try to rectify the situation: get a massage, go for a walk, take a day off, have an early night. Your body knows when you are under too much stress. Listen to it. It is trying to tell you something.
  5. Prioritise sleep. Make time for washing. Do your food shopping. Pack your lunch. Have a safe, comfortable home or place to retreat to.
  6. Put an end to the work day. If you are free-lance it is so easy to let work bleed into your evenings then into your nights. This was what led to years of chronic insomnia for me. These days, I won’t work past 9pm and it has done wonders for me.
  7. Remember the goals of the project or job you are doing. It is not all encompassing. I am yet to see a project with the goal “save the world and permanently change the lives of every person who walks through that door.” Don’t tell yourself that the project is bigger than it is and set achievable goals for your art.
  8. Carve out time, even ten minutes, for your own creativity. When you are not doing creative work or when you are working on a project that isn’t your driving passion, it can be easy to become exasperated. On the days when I am busiest, I set my alarm and do ten minutes of fast creative writing. This is the most efficient way to remind myself of my creativity and of how exciting art can be.
  9. Go for walks. Pat dogs.
  10. Ask, “What do I need help with?” at the beginning of a project or job. Acknowledging that you don’t have all the skills is really important. Further, acknowledging that there are people around you who can fill in the knowledge you lack is vital.
  11. When working in fringe theatre on a project where you are undertaking many roles (say, actor plus set builder plus publicist or director plus designer) remind yourself that you are doing multiple roles. Know that this is a massive task and not something that would be demanded of you by a professional company. That’s fine – we all do it – but just acknowledging this can help. Remind yourself that you are justified in feeling tired and stressed. Sometimes we think there is something wrong with us when actually we are responding in exactly the way anyone would if they were to take on such a massive workload.
  12. Remember that your colleagues and the wider community are there to support you. No one wants someone else’s project to fail. Your friends and audiences walk into the theatre wanting to have an excellent night and enjoy the skill and effort you have put into the project. Don’t invent a narrative in which you are isolated and the people around you want you to fail. Stick to the facts.
  13. Build space for congratulations into your projects.
  14. Don’t be afraid of saying ‘no’. People will respect you for taking on the right kind and right amount of work.
  15. Don’t glorify being busy and overwhelmed. It isn’t something to aspire too.
  16. Forgive yourself.
  17. Remember that you’re not on this journey alone. Connect with your peers. Ask for help when you need it.


And now, enjoy some tips from other artists:

Sarah Walker:

I try to make exercise one of the major priorities in my day. If I start the day going, ‘Okay, I’m definitely going to this 12:15 yoga class’, or ‘I’m going to swim at 8 pm’, it means that I schedule the rest of my life around that, and it makes me a happier person.

I find that work-wise, using the 52/17 technique is quite good – you set an alarm and work completely uninterrupted for 52 minutes, then have 17 minutes of totally different leisure – reading a book, going for a short walk, sitting in the sun, drinking a cup of tea – away from screens and from the place where you’re working. It feels quite decadent and recharges you for the next period of work.

I also schedule the occasional day off, where I’m not allowed to do work at all – it means that I’m productive in the days preceding, and I get to spend the whole day playing music, pottering around, drawing, cooking – being totally screen-free and totally outside my work headspace.

Also, knowing that being incredibly busy isn’t actually a sign that you’re succeeding – being able to get your stuff done and then clock off in the evening, to see friends, to have a glass of wine and read a book – that’s actual success, because it means that you have balance.

Nithya Nagarajan

Do not be guilty when you have to take up a non-creative job to provide for your monetary needs whilst you are making art on the side. Do NOT beat yourself up about it, and see it as an opportunity to use your transferable skills from the studio into the real world and the skills you acquire from the real world back onto the stage. Blur the binaries. They were always constructs anyway.

Chrissie Robinson

Understand that ‘doing well’ is easy when you’re ‘doing well’, so practicing the things that keep you grounded or that calm you is extra important when you’re ‘well’ so that you can automatically do them when you’re stressed and it’s harder.

Know your own stress early warning signs. You’re probably cleaning more/snapping more/ more annoyed at your mum’s SMSs than usual because you’re anxious, not because it’s actually dirty/everyone’s an idiot/your mother is actually insufferable.

Don’t be sanctimonious about being busy – the most functional and successful people are those that take the time for themselves. Also, it makes you ‘that guy’, and we love artists who have time for/interest in others’ ideas too. Be the person someone wants to go to to share excitement about their idea.

And don’t make ‘what are you working on at the moment?’ your only question. There’s more to life than just art and talking about the broader world will only improve your practice. And you.

Jana Perkovic:

Don’t spread yourself thin. Yes means yes. If you commit to a project, you have to give it your best shot. Therefore, be very careful what you say yes to, because you have to be accountable to each ‘yes’ you say.

Be mindful of staying kind and fair to yourself. Never compare yourself to your peers: remember we are all on an individual journey. Remember that you are not your work, and rejection isn’t personal: you are just not the right fit for the project. Cultivate long-term relationships. It is not competition, it is a community. Being an arts worker is a long game.

Anna Kennedy:

Remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun. Play!

Eloise Maree:

Keep going! We are the world needs artists – be brave enough to exist as one. xx


All photos in this post are from Sarah Walker’s CLUTCH series. Her work can be found here.

 I wrote this for the Monash graduates of the Centre for Theatre and Performance but decided to share it publicly here because it isn’t just graduates that need to think about self-care. Look after yourselves!  

Fragmentary Response, Responses

fragmentary/inadequate thoughts: a love note to the bacchae and gutsy young women

These were the notes prior to speaking about The Bacchae with Richard Watts on Smart Arts.

I do not want to contribute to the plethora of too short reviews so I have decided to deliberately present my notes as fragmentary thoughts. I want to acknowledge this is too small a space to discuss a show but I hope these add something to the conversation.

The Bacchae

THE BACCHAE, photo by Pia Johnston

THE BACCHAE, photo by Pia Johnston

There was a moment five minute/two breaths in that made me wish it was acceptable to fist pump/barrack/yell ‘fuck yeah’ in theatre. I am Dionysius, son of Zeus. If you don’t believe me, I will punish you. My excitement was full bodied. I stuttered/salivated/shuddered in my seat. Smashing the mundane/modern up against the sublime/mystic will always make me lose my shit.

This is a piece of theatre that takes place in the audience as much as on the stage. You must think/confront your own intellectual/emotive responses to the assertive/blatant/disturbing/joyous sexuality of young women. Confidence just rolls off this stage. They were gutsy/strong/100 percent on board with this artistic vision. This scared people. In a world where young female bodies drape across our billboards/drop from the sky if you wear Lynx/are just a click away/everywhere, those that look back/own it are still dangerous.

I was there for a Q & A on Wednesday night – “I have a daughter/I wouldn’t want to see her doing this/how old are you/the older the better, I say” – and they were having none of it. These young women, still growing into their bodies/sense of self/sense of feminism, made it immensely clear that they chose to stand on that stage/put those costumes on their bodies/move those bodies in a particular way.

It is the trope of Greek tragedies: things happen off stage and men run/drag their broken selves in to describe the horrors they have seen. so the ecstatic Dionysian fervor of the women is told through male voices/witnessed through male eyes. Here these voices are almost completely removed. Instead, we watch the women in all their badass/fuck off power.

I won’t forget this. This one is staying.

THE BACCHAE, photo by Pia Johnston

THE BACCHAE, photo by Pia Johnston

criticism, Fragmentary Response

fragmentary/inadequate responses: antigone, perhaps there is hope yet, jurassica, separation street

These days this blog doesn’t see a lot of writing about specific shows. (Actually it doesn’t see a lot of writing full stop because argh.) The bulk of my show responses now end up on Triple R’s Smart Arts, where I do a regular segment with Richard Watts. In preparing for this, I usually write several pages of notes and it recently occurred to me that perhaps artists might enjoy having some of these notes made public so as to have something in writing.

I do not want to contribute to the plethora of too short reviews so I have decided to deliberately present these as fragmentary thoughts. I want to acknowledge that the one paragraph of space I will give each show is inadequate. I will reach no conclusions in this word count and form no judgements but I hope these add something to the conversation. Call them love notes. Call them whispers. Call them poorly punctuated. Call them inadequate, fragmented responses to a tiny portion of the immensely thought-provoking art this city and its artists are producing.

ANTIGONE, photo by Pia Johnson

ANTIGONE, photo by Pia Johnson


This is what I walk in with. Politics. The horror of politics without room for human dignity/compassion/awareness of suffering.

This is what I walk out with. “Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.” Anne Carsons.

This production feels urgent/relevant/pressing, cheek-flushingly/mouth-dryingly/knuckles-whiteningly so. No, not because of phrases like ‘off-shore’ (which are a direct translation from the Ancient Greek) but because this is a moment in time when grief/rage resonate. The city/state/country throbs with it. So should our theatres. This one does. Tonight, this one does.


PERHAPS THERE IS HOPE YET, photo: Theresa Harrison


This is what I walk in with. Dissatisfaction with the spectacle of large-scale circus and its audience’s manic need to clap at every moment of splendour as if to say yes/yes/i saw/you did that and i saw it/you flew high. Applause stops thought/breaks phrasing/rewards performers and audience alike for the completion of their task/concludes our emotional/intellectual investment. I also bring with me a curiosity as to how circus could speak of climate change.

This is what I walk out with. What happens when you make circus small/immediate? What is the impact on the audience of ‘chamber circus’? We see/feel/empathise with the fragility/vulnerability of their bodies. We ground the spectacle in humanity. Every joint crack/sweat drip/jaw clench is registered in our own bodies. Framed as a dreaming on climate change, this vulnerability/deliberate endangerment/repeated callousness/ignorant disregard for their own/each other’s well being becomes an analogy for humanity in all our wilful ignorance of the future and what the shattering of glass/rising of oceans will do to us all.




This is what I walk in with. A memory of my grandmother’s last night of consciousness. Sitting with her waiting for morning and her children to arrive. I didn’t say “goodbye”/“I love you”. I kept thinking there would be another moment. Her last words were mine alone.

This is what I walk out with. What would it be to watch this work through a different set of eyes/hear through a different set of ears? Ones that hadn’t heard a grandparent’s last words. This work hits/stabs/strikes a place within me that makes it impossible to deny how much our viewings of family narratives are shaped by our own narratives/families.

Red Stitch’s new focus on Australian writing places freshly developed scripts on the same stage as international works with much more money/time poured into their development. A big ask. The readiness of this script/how it sits beautifully within their season is a testament to the writer and the company’s process.

Seeing a bi-lingual play presented without apology or subtitles temporarily puts the audience in the position that many migrant families exist in on a daily basis. Households with a cavernous divide running the length of the living room/an unmissable crack in the plaster/snarling gap in the stairs. Parents who came to this country to provide for/protect/shelter their children and, in doing so, sacrificed their own relationships/ability to communicate with these children.

SEPARATION STREET, photo: Greta Costello (I think)

SEPARATION STREET, photo: Greta Costello (I think)


This is what I walk in with. If your understanding of children’s theatre is still pantomime, you are living in the wrong century. And the wrong city. Melbourne is bringing it.

This is what I walk out with. An acute sense of being the outsider to the story and to childhood. This work begins with a literal separation. Adults take one path and kids another. It was a beautiful analogy for parenting. We are a step out of time/behind/in front of/creating/shaping the world for them. When they step into it we sit behind glass and watch them explore its alien surface alone. We can only watch. And cry. We can do that. I did that. I cried at the bravery/curiosity of these tiny/playful explorers.

Mr and Mrs Darling and Nana rushed into the nursery too late. The birds were flown.

SEPARATION STREET, photo: Greta Costello (perhaps)

SEPARATION STREET, photo: Greta Costello (perhaps)

*I saw Jurassica on a preview night and spoke about it with the permission of the company and director. 

interview, My own plays, Theatre, Welcome to Nowhere, writing

fleur kilpatrick: welcome to nowhere, aliens, influences, beginnings

The final Welcome to Nowhere Playwright interview: Emily O’Connor and Olivia Bishop interviewed me. Which feels terribly narcissist to post an interview with myself but I guess my usual entries are just me shouting at the internet without the guiding hand of outside interviewers so let’s just embrace it. I am one of five playwrights commissioned by Monash University to write this new work along with Angus Cerini, Zoey Dawson, Daniel Keene and Morgan Rose. As part of the process, I’ve had student actors interview the creatives. So enjoy!

Photo: Piper Huynh

Photo: Piper Huynh

What brought you to writing, and why specifically theatre? Did it start with other kinds of writing?

I came to theatre really young, so it was first form that I feel in love with. I arrived in theatre by being vindictive. I’d had just a really horrible traumatic experience changing schools, and so I was like “I know, I’ll write a play about it and make people feel really guilty”. That was my whole motive! So this play won the South Australian State Theatre’s Young Playwright’s competition, and the prize for that was that they spent a week workshopping my play with a group of professional actors, a dramaturge and a director, and then they did a staged reading of my play. It was truly terrible.

What was it about, what was it?

It was about me being an angsty teenager and having my life ruined by these teachers! It was just entirely to make them feel bad. I knew it was bad at the time. I have a really clear memory of being like “the instant this week finishes, I’ll never read this again, but I know what a good experience it is”.

I’d been a classical singer and that’s so internal. It’s so about what’s going on inside body. Workshopping for a week just made me aware of what an incredibly collaborative art form theatre was. That week was such a gift. I came to Melbourne to study singing and I was like “Why am I doing this? This is terrible, this is so much more boring than theatre!” And so I dropped out of that six months in, and have been doing theatre ever since.

You direct and occasionally perform in things as well, but is there something about writing that really draws you to it? I mean, which do you prefer?

Um, I don’t know if I should say which I prefer because then people will only hire me for that…

I love both writing and directing because they use really different parts of my brain. I direct from a place of uncertainty and I enjoy that. But you kind of more charismatic in your uncertainty. You’ve sort of got to come in and be like “look, I don’t quite know yet but I know how we’ll figure this out”. With writing, I kind of love that I get to just try and work my stuff out myself, and people around me support that. I don’t have to lead. I can just embrace that unknown. What was the other part of the question? Which do I prefer and…?

Yeah, what is it about writing that draws you to it?

I think I write theatre because I love both words and the visual. I love having the opportunity to create images through other people. I really enjoy stage directions. I don’t write them often, but when I do I try to create emotive, poetic, impossible ideas for people to play with. They are as much an offer as dialogue.

I love how collaborative theatre writing is. A lot of the time there’s this expectation that writers write in isolation in this cabin in a wood somewhere. And I mean there’s still a lot of writing that’s lonely and private and has to be but playwriting is like you tried to be an introvert and failed… Its the most collaborative form of writing there is. And I love that. I’m so needy as a writer. I have my group of friends that I’ll just be like “Hey, can you come over? I just – I just really need someone to read this to me, right now, and I have dogs and cups of tea on offer. That’s what I got for you”.

When you are writing, do you find yourself putting on that director’s hat and being like, “This is how I envision this piece” before its even workshopped?

I’m really proud of the fact that I don’t. I think being a director has taught me to have immense faith in directors. I love leaving things incomplete. I think a good script should feel unfinished on the page, because that’s not the form it’s meant to exist in. I’m really proud that I embrace that, and that I’m good at leaving that space, and leaving room for a director.

Moving on to Welcome to Nowhere can you tell us a bit about your process? What prompts you might have been given, or what first inspired you to start writing the play?

I could probably show you… Actually no I don’t have that book with me. I drew a map. I got into mind maps, I drew a map with lots of little pictures and arrows, like… to try and figure it out. And I drew a picture of an alien. I just… It seemed that the most liminal or Between Space you could be in was not knowing which planet you’d end up on. Mars One had been on my mind because of a really beautiful podcast that I’d listened to, which was this girl talking about waiting to find out if she was going to Mars. There was something so human, and casual about how she talked about it, but I’m also like “who the fuck wants to leave this planet?!” That is so weird to me. I think it’s really good to start with a question like that: “Who would this person be?” The other element of it is that it’s a one-night stand. I feel like those are kind of liminal spaces as well, particularly after the sex has happened: “… And now we just…”

The mind map I drew when I first started thinking about the concept of 'liminality'.

The mind map I drew when I first started thinking about the concept of ‘liminality’.

“Are you staying over, are you leaving, are you…?”

“Oh I’ve got… I’ve got… a thing tomorrow morning. I mean I could… No, it’s a bit later, it’s like 10, that’s fine I can… Do you mind if I… stay…?” There’s that weird kind of uncertainty as you wait for morning that I think is really interesting. I liked smooshing those two uncertainties together like that.

Then whatever I write is often influenced by what I’ve been reading, or seeing. I feel like the beginning is quite influenced by The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas. That chorus was really intriguing me: how you tell a story communally. There’s other influences which you guys have noticed, some of which I wasn’t necessarily aware of but don’t surprise me: Slaughterhouse Five is my favourite book. I’ve read that so many times. I wasn’t necessarily thinking of it at the time but I kind of loved that Emma saw Slaughterhouse in it.

I know that you said that you like to keep the directing and the writing separate, but when you’re writing the characters do you envision them? Like with this did you visualise, um, mannerisms, or maybe what the alien looks like, or… was there kind of that sort of process? Were they based on real people at all, or are they sort of just…

Well, at the beginning I really didn’t even know what gender they’d be. I wrote them as A and B. When I showed the first draft to Emma I went “I feel like I really want A to be a girl, just because I don’t see female characters like that very often.” Then I’d written about ‘dick’ so B had to be a guy. The alien took me a little while longer. I think you guys saw a draft where it was called ‘alien/scientist’. I wasn’t quite sure where that was sitting for a little while; was it going to be an alien or a scientist? Then in rehearsal Leticia (the set designer) said it was about curiosity. Hearing that really influenced the final drafts. The idea of the alien’s curiosity about them as well as Henry’s curiosity about Maisy and Maisy’s total lack of curiosity about anything Earth-bound. That really help me shape it.

Apart from curiosity, what are the other key themes that are dealt with in ‘Inertia’?

Space… Inertia: momentum or a lack of momentum was really interesting to me. That opening scene is all about Maisy knowing things and doing all this stuff and what an amazing, driven, young person she is. And then you see her and she’s just stopped and stuck. Being in stasis like that really interested me… Um… Yeah.

I think that’s also just me totally embracing nerdiness! It’s the nerdiness thing I’ve written. The big romantic speech? The most romantic thing in my head was making out under whalebones at a museum! But how hot is that?! …So yeah that’s kind of, I think it’s sort of embracing the beauty of trying for something bigger than you. And that’s maths, that’s science, that’s space, that’s all that stuff. And I think there’s a lot of parallels in science and art. They are both about trying to understand the world around you.

Obviously because I’m playing the alien I’m quite fascinated with that character. I guess I’m still in the process of figuring out what the alien is. I was wanting to ask you, as a device what does the alien serve as?

I think that from the beginning, a lot of the writing has been about being watched. Of Mars being watched, then Maisy being watched, and being willing to put herself on what’s basically a life-long reality TV show. I wanted a sense of someone watching them constantly. But also this alien is from a planet that has been watch for as long as we’ve been able to look up. An earlier draft said something like “we’ve explore Mars with our minds for so long and now we’re actually going to put our feet there”. Maisy’s going to be the invader. Maisy’s part of an invading force.

In a way, Maisy’s going to take on the role as the alien.

Yeah, Maisy will become the alien. I think it’s interesting to think of someone from a civilisation on the brink of being invaded just watching and not actually taking any steps to stop it. Just observing this moment of transition… this moment… this liminal moment before the next stage of our relationship with their planet.

And then to think that we on earth will be able to look out into space and think that there are people out there looking back at us!


It’s terrifying!

Going back to the actual writing of ‘Inertia’, did you come across any challenges that you hadn’t come across writing other plays?

I often struggle to write short plays because I try to cram in too many things. That’s concepts and forms or devices. I had to really be careful of that. For a little while there the space of six scenes I had four totally different rules for how the universe of the play worked. So there was the chorus narrating; there was Maisy and Henry interacting; there was this speech by this scientist and there was also projections of video games and all sorts. And then there was also this like weird sex scene that I’d written as the scientist narrating it as a rocket launch, calling out what hormones were being release when and stuff like that! It was really nerdy. It was horrible.

Oh God! I’m a bit glad you cut that out!


In our pyjamas.

In our pyjamas. One of us is drunk.

Yeah. It’s only going to be about 20 minutes, and that’s very disjointed to have four totally different stylistic things in such a short play. That’s a thing I confront each time I have to write something short… because I’m just not good at… at being that clear.

Being concise and…

Yeah being concise both in terms of thoughts and themes and also in styles and how I want to tell a story because I love changing styles.

Last question: a bit of a silly one, a bit cheesy but…if you were stranded on a desert island and you only had one thing you could take with you, what would it be?

Probably lip balm cause I’d just feel like I’d get really annoyed at having dry lips!

I was expecting like, ” Pencil and paper to write down a memoir!”

Nah, I’m sticking with lip balm.

Welcome to Nowhere runs September 24th-October 3rd at the Coopers Malthouse. Bookings are at the Coopers Malthouse website and at The Melbourne Fringe website.

interview, My own plays, Welcome to Nowhere

morgan rose: welcome to nowhere, hurricanes, collaboration, stepping back and learning how to do all the things

This is part four of the Welcome to Nowhere Playwright interviews: Eliza Quinn and Max Paton interviewing Morgan Rose. I am one of five playwrights commissioned by Monash University to write this new work along with Angus Cerini, Zoey Dawson, Daniel Keene and Morgan. As part of the process, I’ve had student actors interview the creatives. When I suggested this, Max and Eliza immediately asked to speak to Morgan. They had both just seen her MTC Neon Show: Lord Willing & The Creek Don’t Rise and wanted to understand more about Morgan’s creative process and the writing of that work. So enjoy this beautiful contribution from Morgan, Max and Eliza.

Morgan Rose

Morgan Rose

What brought you to writing?

I was always interested in writing. I wrote a lot when I was little, and then kind of abandoned it. I found theatre and was like “Oh, well I won’t do that writing thing anymore”. I started as a performer and then worked my way through all the things like director or producer, but then somehow ended up back at writer. When I came to Australia, I always would write little bits and pieces if we needed to for plays, and then people just kept asking me to do that all the time, so I did.

Do you have any central themes or ideas that you keep coming back to in your writing?

I think I do, but I don’t realise that I do. It’s like “Oh fuck I wrote about that again, whoops”. I write about fucked up relationships a lot – it just always ends up being that. Weird relationships too. Like something really bizarre happens – a man eats his girlfriend, or a woman falls in love with a dolphin, that kind of thing. I realised the other day, and I don’t know if this counts as a theme, but everything I’ve written in the past two years has ended with everyone walking away and leaving a man alone on stage to deal with his shit. I was like “What the fuck?”

And because I don’t live in my home, I find I write a lot about being out of place, being somewhere you don’t necessarily belong.

From the start of your writing process, just having the germ of an idea, to the finished script, how much would you say a piece changes over the course of that?

I feel like it can change pretty drastically. But I feel as I’m writing more and more and figuring out how to write more and more, I’m more certain at the beginning now than I was before. Before I’d just have this little idea, just see what happens and write. Now I know to maybe sit with that idea and do some more planning. If you think about it longer before you just dive in, it gets easier. And so, as I’m growing as an artist I think maybe my ideas are a little more solid, more fully formed and less wobbly.

When you write for theatre, are you seeing every single moment of it on stage?

I do. I know plenty of people don’t, but I definitely always see it on stage and that’s something I’m really interested in, in my work – the form of theatre. I never want to ignore that it’s happening on stage in front of an audience. That’s precious to me. I don’t want it to be a film, I don’t want it to be set in a real place: I want it to be set in the very strange place of theatre.



Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise?

I lived in New Orleans during the hurricane when it hit. I evacuated, which is actually why I left. Then the news story came out a year after the storm and I guess I felt immediately drawn to it, and connected it with theatre – it’s like this metaphor. There’s a flood, and there’s a person consuming the person they love, and it was this fucked up, but very innately theatrical story. It was also about something I felt very personally about, which was this city in a first world country, that was just left to fend for itself. It was so fucked there, after the storm. It was so bad. And having been a part of that, in whatever way, I felt really angry. I felt like most people didn’t really understand what had happened and the extent of how bad it was. I thought that this story was a good way to try to explain that.

In Lord Willing, did you want to explore the fallout of this event?

Lord Willing was inspired by this real story, but I stopped researching halfway through because I didn’t want to tell this person’s story. It inspired something in me, to tell a story, but it’s not a biopic. I feel like this man got pushed into this horrible place by all of this shit that went down. Everyone will focus on this one event – “Oh you did this horrible thing, you did this horrible thing” – but what’s behind that? What’s the build up? That’s what I was interested in. Less in the actual disgusting horrible thing that happened and more in what came before it.

Is it hard to step back in a rehearsal room and let your work take shape?

Because I come from this collaborative background, Lord Willing was the first time I’ve handed over a script and said “Here, do it, and I’ll just be over here”. That was really hard, because I was like “I know all these things about it and it has to be this way!” And Kat (Henry) was like “Actually, you know, no, I’m the one directing it”. She’s brilliant, and thank God she was directing it, because I have directed but I am not a director. Lord Willing was a weird, new experience for me but we got through it and figured it out. But a lot of the getting through it was me realising “This is Kat’s thing now, and I have to let it be her thing, calm the fuck down Morgan, she knows what she’s doing”.

Do you feel like there’s something you wanted people to take from Lord Willing, or do you feel it’s entirely up to interpretation?

It’s important to me to not tell an audience what to think. I think about that when writing, I try not to spell it out. What Lord Willing is about for me is that this kind of shit could happen to any one of us. I’m not capable of saying that we’re all capable of eating our lovers, but if put in a fucked up enough situation, you can do things you never thought you were capable of.

Morgan's recently play at Theatre Works, VIRGINS AND COWBOYS. Photos: Lachlan Woods

Morgan’s recently play at Theatre Works, VIRGINS AND COWBOYS. Photos: Lachlan Woods

How did you respond to the Welcome to Nowhere brief?

We had to write something about an in-between space, so I did some brainstorming and thought of a million ideas. What I narrowed it down to was a story about a bunch of people whose town disappears: they wake up and their town is gone, they’re just in this desert and they don’t know how or why. I wrote another one that was about how we communicate online; that relationship we have with people around us but it’s all in this nowhere place. I wrote little bits and pieces of those and sent them to Emma and said “Which do you want?” And so we went with the town disappearing – it had more of a story while the other one was episodic.

Any final words of wisdom for a pair of super cool young uni students such as ourselves?

Learn how to do all the things, especially in theatre. If you’re a performer, don’t rely on just being a performer and auditioning and letting other people do it for you – know how to do the applications, know how to get the money yourself, know how to put on a show. Even if you’re the performer and you say “I’m going to hire this director so that I can play Hamlet”, be able to do that because not a lot of people can put together a production, to put together all those pieces and make it happen. The people that can do that are the people that have a show!

Welcome to Nowhere runs September 24th to October 3rd at the Coopers Malthouse. I’d love to see you there. I am so fucking proud of this show and all the artists involved.