Ildiko Susany: What would be one piece of advice you would give an emerging actor breaking into the industry?
Annie Byron: To thine own self be true. Train, meditate, exercise, read, forge your inner resources – you’ll need them. Pursue your passion. If the challenges start to sour your love of your craft, stop it and do something else. Persisting makes no sense if you are not being enriched by the experiences, and having fun.
How do you think things have changed for women in theatre since the time you started in the industry to now?
Well, not enough. It was astonishing to sit in those early Women In Theatre meetings last year and hear exactly the same things being said as in the Limited Life funding meetings of almost FOUR decades ago. But look! Within a year a whole Festival Fatale organised, that’s women working with women for women. Women have always supported each other. Maybe what’s changed is that companies generally take more seriously the need to be conscious of gender equity. I think we might be better organised and more articulate. I’d like to think the work of those who have gone before has made taking new steps easier. I’m not sure I can answer this question. It’s depressing that it still needs answering.
What do you think is the naughtiest part of this production of Babes In The Woods?
I think it has to be the relationship between Phyllis and Jack, with a moment of leg licking being one among numerous exquisite high points.
What is your biggest challenge in playing ‘The Dame’ (or, a woman playing a man, playing a woman)?
Before we started rehearsal, this is what I thought about most. Perhaps it says something about the level of subtlety of my performance (!) that now that we are in to it, I have kind of forgotten all about those layers, and I’m just going for a character, and for clarity of story telling. And enjoying the possibility of facial hair. There is a generous allocation of gender bending in this show, and I’m trusting it is something to be played with and enjoyed – without too much depth of thought.
If you could sing any song in this production (regardless of rights) what would it be?
“37 Babies” – the one I WILL be singing! It’s fierce and black and cheeky and political, and I adore it. Having been told repeatedly as a child that I couldn’t sing (and even instructed to mime in the school choir!) this is a major victory for me. I’m delighted that it is so steeped in the feel of Kurt Weill, and I intend to have a lot of fun with it!
Annie Byron: What do you experience as the things most needing to change for young women in our profession?
Ildio Susany: Gender parity. The erroneous view is that women require more training; women aren’t ready; women aren’t as talented or produce as good work as men in the industry (this is also the perception of artists of diverse backgrounds). This is completely false. We need to change this view from the outset. An example of this is that statistics show that roughly 50% of film school graduates are women and yet these women are only represented at less than 30% across all fields in the film industry. Women are in greater audience numbers than men and according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, films with female leads made considerable more money than films with male leads. Women don’t need further training or internships – women need access to work and opportunity. Women need to be trusted for their work and skills and insights and capability in the same way that men are. Young women need to own this conversation. Be a part of Women In Theatre & Screen (WITS) and Women In Film and Television (WIFT). The industry is not a meritocracy – unconscious bias and notions of historic gender roles are still in effect today. We need to work together to change this.
Working with full commitment for little or no money, what makes being in an ‘independent’ production worthwhile?
Independent theatre is a place where artists can test their muscle, take risks and break new ground. I think this space can be the best for creating change and bringing major issues to light. I perform in independent theatre and create independent productions because I love to work, I love to be able to tell the stories that I want to tell (stories which may not be featured on the mainstage); stories which might be more inclusive and reflective of our society in terms of gender and diversity and the issues that we need to be exploring in society.
What is the best thing about being in our panto, Babes In The Woods?
The team. I’m working with some of the best artists, actors and creatives who are highly astute with excellent comic timing! It is a joy to play and improvise in this work space. I also love the themes and politics explored in this play which are centred on Australian identity and landscape.
What do you most enjoy about playing a male role?
My favourite part about playing the male role of Robbie is debunking the myths of masculinity and exploring issues of feminism, white privilege and male privilege from my perspective as a woman of colour.
Can you name 5 roles you would like to play by the time you are 60?
Lady Anne. Lady Macbeth. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton or Angelica Schuyler. Any other strong and complex female character – who might have to do some stunts or fight choreography!
Annie Byron and Ildiko Susany can be seen in Babes In The Woods by Phil Rouse (based on the good works of Tom Wright).
Dates: 13 – 21 Dec, 2016 and 6 – 21 Jan, 2017
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre