5 Questions with Stefanie Jones and Andrew Kroenert

Stefanie Jones

Andrew Kroenert: Who do you think should have a fictional lovechild?
Stefanie Jones: Of all our most loved and most famous cultural icons, a child between Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (once they’d separated) would have been pretty cool. She would have made a great mother, and we know how much he loved her. On top of all that, what a gene pool! So all the right ingredients, I say.

If it were the last day of your life, how would you spend it?
Without a doubt, Brisbane. My parents created the most beautiful family home there for us to grow up in, with an outdoor terrace and a pool surrounded by palm trees to watch the sun go down over. Being able to sit there with a glass of wine in my hand, with my mother’s cooking on the table and surrounded by family and friends would be absolutely perfect.

If you could play any role of the opposite gender, what would it be?
The Emcee in Cabaret would be oodles of fun! He is confused, in some ways debased, yet he is intelligent and has that rare ability to turn tragedy into satire / comedy. Cabaret is a very smart, important and relevant story so any role in that show would be a dream and also a great way to continue talking about our political and social history.

Any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
No, although I wish I had a few to help with my nerves sometimes! Mainly I just like to not feel rushed, to have the time to check in with fellow cast mates and to get ready at a comfortable pace, unlike Andrew Kroenert.

If you could have written any pop song, what would it be?
‘Never Give Up On The Good Times’ by The Spice Girls. It just came to me, and I’m sold on this choice.

Andrew Kroenert

Who do you think should have a fictional lovechild?
Doesn’t everyone want Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to have a ridiculously funny, quirky (and most likely wonderfully camp) little boy? He would be absolute heaven.

If it was the last day of your life, how would you spend it?
Last day on earth I would probably host a BBQ at my house with all my family during the day, hang out with the nephews and have a few beers with my siblings and parents. Then I’d send them home and have a quiet evening with my partner, Jess. Maybe split a bottle of wine, play some cards listen to all my favourite music.

If you could play any role of the opposite gender, what would it be?
I think it would be super fun to play Cathy in The Last Five Years. It would be interesting to see how the themes and people’s feelings towards those characters would hold were they played by members of the opposite sex.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I don’t have any pre-show rituals but I’m never in costume before the 5 minute call, in fact I try to stay out of costume for as long as possible before a show starts! And I’ll always have a coffee before a show.

If you could acquire any one skill to add to the strings of your bow, what would it be?
I would like to be fluent in another language. Having just been to Mexico currently that language is Spanish although I have long wished to be fluent in French.

Stefanie Jones and Andrew Kroenert can be seen in Carmen, Live Or Dead , by Craig Harwood and iOTA.
Dates: 28 Apr – 6 May, 2018
Venue: Hayes Theatre

5 Questions with Veronica Clavijo and James Martin

Veronica Clavijo

James Martin: How is your role in the play different from anything you have done before?
Veronica Clavijo: I must say it is definitely a first that I get the opportunity to play this type of character for a period piece. Louise is majorly concerned with the societal values of the time and her character seems to be a reflection of the society as a whole. She seems to be ‘the voice of reason’ in the show and shows the audience how radical and forward thinking some of the others are. In the last show I did, Fiddler On The Roof, I played Tzeitel, a woman who was rebelling against society. It has been interesting to get into the mind of someone from the other side of the spectrum. It has been interesting to understand Louise’s truth and what family, society and honour mean to her.

What about Louise do you as Veronica most relate to?
Louise is passionate and outspoken and is actually quite forward with the men around her. Although I can’t relate to her wanting to do everything possible to appease the town and the society I can relate to her passion. I can relate to the fact that she will not stop until she is heard and that she challenges the men in her life. She is not afraid to speak her mind, to correct them and to question them. She is a fighter!

If you were a poet, what would you write about?
I would write about happiness, love and the human condition! And maybe my love of Harry Potter.

Why is this story important to be told in the 21st century?
I believe it is important because it still harbours relevant issues. The idea of love, family, honour and responsibility the play touches on are all things an audience can relate to. Another thing is the question of who should have Alison’s poetry? And, did she indeed write it for women. If that is the case, shouldn’t it be the women in her family who decide what to do with them?

Is there another character in the play that you can relate to?
I can relate to the character of Eben empathetically. Eben is sad, bored and is unhappy with his job and his life. I mean, we have all been there before! He wants more, he is sensitive and he wants to feel more in his life. He searches for truth, love and happiness. He wants to mean more and for his life to mean more. I think these are basic human feelings that we can all relate to. I love that Susan Glaspell gave these qualities to a man. Eben is not unfeeling, or stern, or angry or written to be aggressive in a stereotypically masculine way. For this reason, I think a lot of audience members will relate to him.

James Martin

Veronica Clavijo: What was it about the play, Alison’s House that made you want to audition?
James Martin: Reading the script for the first time, I found it to be a moving story with 11 different quirky characters with their own story and journey, all coming together to remember Alison in their own way. When I realised that I couldn’t not audition.

You play a character who is seemingly disinterested in Alison’s poetry, life and the respect she garnered through her literature. Tell us what you have discovered about Ted and how he feels about his Aunt Alison.
Doing my work on Ted, I found him to be the outcast in his family. Not quite fitting in with his father or Eben or even Elsa. Which leads me to believe that he is a bit of a mummy’s boy. We also need to consider the Ted was 2 years old when Alison died. So really Ted see’s Alison as this goldmine that he can make some money from, or at least use to pass college. I mean he obviously cares about her and the rest of the family, but If I was related to someone as influential as Alison Stanhope, I’d probably be trying to make money off them as well. However what I admire about Ted is that he’s a hard worker! He is willing to put all this work into something if he knows it’s going to make him successful.

Why do you think the play is still relevant if not more today?
Every family is so different, especially in today’s world. There is no ‘social norm’ when it comes to family. Everyone does it different and I think that this play shows that. It has the ability to tell a story of a close family that has grown apart and is now coming back together, and I think there is something beautiful and timeless in that.

What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal process?
Just seeing how far and how big Ted can go. Trying to find the boundaries of Ted and his role in the family is so much fun and it’s a never ending Journey.

Finally, if Ted was put into a modern setting what type of millennial would he be?
Ted’s a big personality with a good mind for business. I think he would be some kind of social media influencer, like a YouTuber just doing dumb things on camera and entertaining millions.

Veronica Clavijo and James Martin are appearing in Alison’s House, by Susan Glaspell.
Dates: 4 – 21 April, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre

5 Questions with Shannan Lim and Vidya Rajan

Shannan Lim

Vidya Rajan: What does being Asian-Australian mean to you? Do you like the term?
Shannan Lim: For me, ‘Asian-Australian’ works. I was raised between Singapore and Australia. So it indicates two parts of an identity—people are always more than one thing. I am ambivalent about the term though. I’ve always thought, you can only call yourself ‘Australian’, without a prefix and without questions, if you look white.

What do you enjoy most about Asian Ghost-ery Store?
That it alternates between frank, sometimes mumblecore dialogue between our characters to the audience, and then over-the-top or physical scenes. As a writer you can speak in two different tones, and as a performer there are different rhythms to play with so that’s nice. And I really like the ending of Asian Ghost-ery Store!

What has been most challenging, either artistically or in reception?
Because you and I play versions of ourselves and all the stories are at least partly truthful, even if they are edited or swapped between us or amplified, when the audience wasn’t onboard in the earlier days it used to shake me. But this has changed the more Asian Ghost-ery Store has grown, the more experience we’ve had doing it.

Has there been anything that has surprised you about your identity through making this work?
The biggest shock has been how much people have connected with our brand of Asian-ness, which is kind of pathetic and self-involved. But it’s very relatable, I think. It’s strangely made me —at the same time—more OK with my Asian identity and how it relates to other parts of my life, and more riled about the politics of race.

What does political theatre or practice mean to you now and going into the future?
Is this an essay question? If you’re making political theatre your intent is to have the audience question something about their everyday that they take for granted. I’m a clown too, and clowning is outside of intellectualism. So going in the future, I want to balance the politics in my work with me just rolling around on the floor for no reason.

Vidya Rajan

Shannan Lim: We started creating Asian Ghost-ery Store close to four years ago. How have you changed as an artist, as a person since then?
Vidya Rajan: Has it been that long? I’ve changed immensely. I’ve become more serious about being an artist I suppose, I moved to the Melbourne (the true mark of it haha) pretty and finished study at the VCA recently. I’ve explored new forms of work, and I think or hope my practice is evolving in exciting ways and becoming deeper. I suppose I hope the same for myself as a person but I am not sure if that’s true.

If the play was turned into a TV series and you had to cast different performers, who would you cast as our characters Shan and Yaya? What qualities would you look for?
Aiya! I’d be looking for actors who could be sassy and off-kilter but emotional at the same time. Maybe John Early and Kate Berlant, but in…brown and yellow face (NO). Nobody springs to mind really, which could be a function of my lack of knowledge, or the fact there’s such little representation still.

What would Asian Ghost-ery Store look like if it were staged a hundred years in the future?
I think and hope it would lose some of its immediate relevance that relies on certain racial stuff being true? It would be like staging an interesting history piece. But I hope the humour and relationships would carry through to the holograms.

What are you looking forward to seeing or doing while you’re in Sydney?
I’d really like to see other shows at the fest! Other than that, I’ve rarely been in Sydney so all the touristy stuff. I love a good botanical garden.

What’s the next project you’re working on?
A few things! I’m writing on a pilot at the moment, and devising a couple of shows. Also working as an Associate Artist with Theatre Works in the first part of the year. I’m also trying to stop my aged Indian relatives from constantly sending me inspirational memes about god which is almost a full-time job.

Shannan Lim and Vidya Rajan appear in Asian Ghost-ery Store, part of the Batch Festival at Griffin Theatre Co.
Dates: 11 – 28 April, 2018
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre

5 Questions with Danica Burch and Dominique Purdue

Danica Burch

Dominique Purdue: If you could describe your character using a song, what would it be?
Danica Burch: Due to the circumstances in this play, I think “Haunted” by Beyonce would be the most appropriate fit for poor Helen. But maybe at the end of the play she is more of a “Walking On Sunshine” kinda gal.

What movie traumatised you as a kid?
I remember watching Scary Movie 2 as a kid and I was actually really scared. I didn’t realise it was a parody of other horror films… and I obviously missed the comedy in it. Forrest Gump used to creep me out as well, especially the war scenes. I saw that film about 3 or 4 times as a kid and always found it really unsettling.

Apart from acting, what’s your dream job?
If I wasn’t acting, I think I would enjoy being a celebrity fashion stylist or maybe even someone’s personal creative director… Someone really extra like Lady Gaga or Cardi B. How fun would it be to dress someone up in ridiculous outfits and decide if they should arrive at the Grammy Awards in an alien egg or a meat dress.

If you could play any instrument, what would it be?
Well, I can already play the piano… I wish I was more skilled, but I no longer have a piano to practice on. Although, the other day I saw that you can get silicone keyboards that roll up for storage. It blew my mind. I think that I should get one so that I can start playing again. I’d also like to learn the violin one day.

If you could live in any fantasy universe, what would it be and why?
Well obviously I would love to ride a hippogriff and drink butterbeer and experience all that Hogwarts has to offer. But if that’s asking too much, I would settle for a world where teleportation is possible. I think it would be so useful and you would have so much extra time. No rush hour train rides, no sitting in traffic, no 23 hour flights to Europe. Also, think of the money you’d save!

Dominique Purdue

Danica Burch: What is your favourite theatre production that you have seen?
Dominique Purdue: There’s been so many, but I saw Twelfth Night last year at the Globe Theatre in London. It was insanely good; I always thought the Globe put on really traditional productions of Shakespeare, which I also enjoy, but this one was so well-adapted for modern audiences and I was literally laughing the entire time. I also bought an embarrassing amount of Shakespeare merchandise from the gift shop, so that was definitely a plus.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Hell yeah I do. I haven’t had a supernatural experience yet, but I watch too much Ghost Adventures to not believe in ghosts.

What is the weirdest food combo that you enjoy eating?
I like a lot of weird food combos. I like pineapple on pizza, so there’s that. I also like really, really salty fries dipped in ice cream.

What city, apart from Sydney, would you like to live in?
I’m an actor, so I’m gonna say New York, for sure. I also recently visited Lisbon in Portugal last year, and I surprisingly loved it, so I would definitely live in Lisbon for a good few months.

If you could get inside the mind of any actor in the world, who would it be and why?
Oh man, the dream! It changes every few weeks, but right now I’m gonna say Taika Waititi. He’s directed/acted in a bunch of golden indie films and he recently directed the new Thor film. I think he’s a genius, I love the sense of humour that in puts into each of his films, even when they’re dealing with some pretty hard-hitting issues. I would really have loved to have been in his head when he was developing/filming What We Do In the Shadows. That film should be a New Zealand national treasure.

Danica Burch and Dominique Purdue are appearing in Sherlock Holmes And The Speckled Band, by Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Max Gee.
Dates: 7th April – 12th May, 2018
Venue: Genesian Theatre

5 Questions with Morgan Maguire and Wendy Mocke

Morgan Maguire

Wendy Mocke: Morgan my dear, there is a line in Britney Spear’s song ‘Radar’ that states, “confidence is a must, cockiness is a plus.” Describe Home Invasion using a title of one of Britney’s songs.
Morgan Maguire: Hmmm so many options… I’m going to have to go with the seminal work that is ‘Crazy’. Hopefully the home invasion would not intensify to hit me baby one more time, I was born to make u happy or I’m a slave for you.

This next one may be a deeply personal question but I want you to feel as comfortable as Tom Cruise did when he jumped on Oprah’s couch. What do you think your dance style says about your personality?
Hmmm thanks for being so respectful of my personal boundaries Wendy. I feel my dance style could be described as “thrusty chaos” (often without the support of proper underwear). So I like to imagine this says “that Morgan, she’s a thinker…”

In 2016, Danielle Bregoli famously stated, “cash me ousside, how bow dah”. What do you think was outside?
Her and cash?

In 1988, Paul Abdul released her smash hit single; ‘Opposites Attract’. According to science, this theory is false. Who are you most likely to believe, Paula Abdul or science?
Paula because she was dueting with an animated anthropomorphic street smart hip hop cat and it was implied that they had an intimate relationship so she obviously has a strong grip on logic and reality.

Besides me, who in the cast or crew are you most likely to have as your idol and why?
Wendy, are you flirting with me?

Wendy Mocke

Morgan Maguire: Oh hai Wendy, so I figure this is my *ultimate* chance to channel James Lipton from Inside The Actors Studio… tell me – what is your favourite word? What is your least favourite word?
Wendy Mocke: Wow, you jumped right in there didn’t you? Such a personal question… I consider myself more of the silent brooding type, you know the type that lounges in old leather chairs, face lit by ambient mood lighting, listening to James Blunt whilst tossing back a few bourbons and getting lost in a sea of my own emotions. Speaking of emotions, my favourite word right now is ‘raclette’. If you’re not sure of what that word is, google it, you can thank me later. My least favourite word is ‘couscous’. I’m immediately sceptical of something being so nice they named it twice. It’s presumptuous.

What’s your guilty television indulgence?
Umm, well Morgan, I would say guilt is not an emotion I like to carry around with me #NoRegrets. However to answer your question, I’ll throw into the ring the Chinese dating show called If You Are The One. Witnessing public rituals of humiliation, camouflaged as a romantic quests is somewhat awkward and uncomfortable – much like how I naturally get around in life.

What profession would you not like to do?
Probably a high school maths teacher. No parent should ever entrust me with their teenager’s secondary maths education. It’s like asking Donald Trump to tell the truth.

Top five books in no particular order?
‘Ain’t I A Woman’ – bell hooks
‘Where The Wild Things Are’ – Maurice Sendak
‘Sevenwaters’ Trilogy – Juliet Marillier
‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ – Reni Eddo-Lodge
‘Bad Feminist’ – Roxane Gay

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Well Morgan if you must know, I sang to myself and my neighbour only just twenty minutes ago. My neighbour wasn’t a willing participant to my singing, they happened to be collateral damage. I’m confident they’ll thank me later after the initial shock has worn off, I’m a lot to take in.

Morgan Maguire and Wendy Mocke are appearing in Home Invasion, by Christopher Bryant.
Dates: 21 March – 7 April, 2018
Venue: Old 505 Theatre

5 Questions with Emma Harvie and Michelle Ny

Emma Harvie

Michelle Ny: What is your dream role to play?
Emma Harvie: I’m not sure my dream role exists yet. I do think Liam Neeson’s role in Taken would be fun.

How did the journey of wanting to be an actor begin for you?
Since I was a kid I loved performing. I used to make up dances with my sister and cousin and make films with my best friend. At some point in primary school I knew I wanted to be an actor.

What are the obstacles you’ve had to face as a POC actor?
The roles I used to apply for were very different to what I put myself forward for now. I was always aware of families and would look for roles that didn’t have any relatives on stage because I didn’t believe a non-white family would be cast on a Sydney stage. Now I apply for everything. The conversations around ‘diversity’ in the arts are so important, and I cannot wait for the time when I no longer have to have them.

Tell me about your most cringe audition?
Mmm I’ve done a few bad Indian accent auditions… I just have not mastered this accent yet. My family is Sri Lankan and the accent is similar so I slip into that and it becomes a mess.

Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years?
Somewhere with a few more screen credits to my name. My sister and I speak a lot about writing a comedy series, I want to make that happen and play the lead. I will also have a dog.

Michelle Ny

Emma Harvie: Can you remember a word/phrase you loved when you were 17?
Michelle Ny: I don’t know if I loved it… but I used to say ‘lol’ ironically until it became part of my normal speak lol. 

What’s your favourite post show snack?
A pint of VB or San Remo instant pasta.

Did you play sport in high school?
I played soccer and netball but in year 10 (year 9 here), I was put in a crappy netball team and (in no way a brag!!) I was the best player and I had to do all the hard work so I dropped out. Then I started playing social soccer with my friends and our team was called Dragon Fire Ninja Warriors. 

What are the challenges/perks of being a Cambodian/New Zealander actor in Australia?
I’ve been lucky to work with people who are conscious of diverse representation so the perks are actually being seen and standing out among my white peers. But the challenge of course is still under-representation and lack of opportunity for work. But there’s a reason I’m working in Sydney and not New Zealand. It may not be perfect but there is a conscious effort to support young POC artists and the quality of work is high, buzzing and exciting. 

What song do you think your character would pump before a game?
“Katy on a Mission” by Katy B. Listen to it. 

Emma Harvie and Michelle Ny are appearing in The Wolves, by Sarah DeLappe.
Dates: 14 March – 14 April, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre

5 Questions with Dina Panozzo and David Soncin

Dina Panozzo

David Soncin: In five words how would describe your character, Momma Bianchi?
Dina Panozzo: Heart, big-love, the-boss, fire and wit!

Do you find your character, or the play as a whole, has any similarities to your life personally?
I think we’re similar in her immediacy and, sometimes, her hot head! The play is a direct shot to my heart of the past as my family, with my 18 month old brother and 3 month old baby me, arrived in Melbourne in 1955, just at the time of this play’s setting! So these people are so like my people back then.

Have you found any challenges with approaching this particular text?
To fight my prejudice against the assumption of its clique-ness! In my first read of the play, the Italians, written with the ‘accent’ in the lines by an Anglo writer, read as an Australian fairytale to me… non-authentic. But, as I’ve gone deeper into the process of telling this story along with my fellow actors, I find it to be profound and moving — with Tony Poli who plays my husband, we go into the sound of our first language — and it is coming to life and so, so much more complex than I first thought. It is an important study on racism and tolerance I believe.

Do you have any inspirations for approaching Momma’s character, or even your work in general?
My mamma e papà, Maria Panozzo e Bruno Panozzo, who were and are still brave and true, and — I have to say even if too “woggy” sounding — all the immigrants who want to belong (like Gino, our son in the play, who is really the only one who stands up for his right to belong).

If you could pick out of Momma Bianchi’s two children, why is Gino your favourite?
Because he’s still young enough to kiss and hit if cheeky!

David Soncin

Dina Panozzo: What five words would you use to describe The Shifting Heart?
David Soncin: Immigrants, assimilation, family, racism, pride.

What’s the most difficult part of bringing this play/Gino to life?
Probably exploring and understanding that part of Gino that seeks acceptance – understanding the struggle with indifference, and his determination to assimilate, which he does with total optimism – and finding those similar things in myself. That, and singing 4 bars of “Americano”.

What do you think Gino dreams about for the future?
I think Gino deep down just wants to live a good life in his new country: get married, have kids, have a successful business with his brother-in-law and, most importantly, be accepted by his Anglo counterparts as a true Australian.

What do you love about the play?
Well firstly, I love the fact we have an Australian classic that explores Italian culture and, having a full Italian immigrant background on both sides of the family, it’s exciting that I get the chance to tell these types of stories. It deals with the psychology of racism, discrimination, racial and domestic violence, and the cultural struggle of an immigrant family. But I also love the fact it doesn’t shy away from the humour of a loud Italian family because that shit is funny!

How do you think this play relates to us in the here and now?
I could probably write a whole essay answering that question, but the school students seeing the show might plagiarise. The short answer is, I absolutely believe the play is still relevant, for many reasons. The Shifting Heart highlights the negative patterns of thinking and physical behaviour towards immigrants, different cultures and ethnicities, and that those patterns seem to keep seeping through the cracks each generation. I don’t think the play’s intention though is to put Italians specifically in a sort of victim pigeon hole, but I believe it’s an important period of reflection of Australian immigrant history.

The play also comments on the interesting notion of subtle/subconscious racism in everyday language, like jokes about one culture being okay, but not others; when is it innocent and when is it racist? I have my own experiences but not necessarily the answers. But, as opinions are often the lowest form of knowledge, I’d have to say come and see the show! I’m always curious to hear about audiences’ own experiences on the play’s subject matter.

Dina Panozzo and David Soncin can be seen in The Shifting Heart by Richard Beynon.
Dates: 8 – 24 Mar, 2018
Venue: Seymour Centre