5 Questions with Tommy Misa and Annie Stafford

Tommy Misa

Annie Stafford: If you were to be trapped in a room with someone, who would it be? (And you can’t say me.)
Tommy Misa: I spend a lot of time alone and tend to figure things out solo so I would prefer to have a doggo with me! Humans are unreliable.

Betty Breaks Out deals with stereotypes and breaking forth from those roles, what stereotype or role are you currently enjoying breaking out of?
In my own life I am very comfortable in my self. In my acting I am enjoying breaking free of the stereotypes of what masculinity can look like, it comes in so many different expressions and different genders and finding ways to show what exists outside of what society deems “masculine” is freeing and sexy!

Who were the heroes and heroines of your childhood?
Growing up I didn’t see many queer or brown characters on screen or stage so my heroes were those I knew. My mother, my grandmothers and all the strong women who taught me what I know… oh and Queen Latifah.

Through watching silent Films for research and inspiration, what are the top 3 things you’ve taken away that you want to implement into your performance?
1. Physicality was so camp and melo-dramatic! I’m here for that.
2. Show, Don’t tell – We are told this so often but when you have no dialogue you really have to bring it back to basics.
3. The way men/women navigated power dynamics of characters depending on gender, I want to flip all that shit on its head.

Have you ever met someone (famous or not) that you had a perceived idea of what they would be like due to their roles or public persona, and have them either confirm your idea of them or completely dash it? Without naming names. Or name names.
Yes – I had seen you all up in my socials all booked and blessed and I was all like “Who is Annie Stafford she seems so together and friendly” turns out you’re both those things plus more and share my same love of boiled eggs.

Annie Stafford

Tommy Misa: Annie, your grandmother was an actor in the 40s/50s, what has changed since then for women in the industry and what things still need to change?
A voice. On and off the stage I would say. My grandmother was an incredibly headstrong woman, and no doubt would have brought that to any stage, but not all female roles were written as such. Women characters were more often than not merely facilitators of the male characters story, the beautiful detailing around the edges of the pages of their life. I believe we have a long way to go in regards to accurate but also interesting representation (of everyone) for I feel we are still suck in a stereotypical idea of what and how we represent.

Betty is a strong and spirited character who voices struggles of that era. What are some of her obstacles that you resonate with?
Betty is bold and ambitious and I think both those traits even now are tough to navigate which feels absolutely ridiculous. Boldness being seen as entitled , rude or aggressive instead of strong, assertive or impressive (I just rhymed and I’m totally okay with that). Ambition being seen as cold, harsh and selfish, instead of brave, determined and inspired. And so in fear of being seen as dominating or pushy, Betty (and myself from time to time) squash this radiating drive that gives us purpose and a sense of fulfilment just to remain approachable, likeable, accepted. Well to hell with that Betty ol gal. Ambition is hot!

If Betty had a song from the 00’s what would it be?
Oooo Poker Face by Lady Gaga. And yes that was in the 00’s. 2008!!!!!!

What are you most excited about audiences seeing in Betty Breaks Out that may be new to audiences?
The fact that we’ve picked up form and thrown it at a wall. And I’m going to leave it there…

What have you enjoyed/struggled with in the rehearsal process?
I’ve really enjoyed the physical work we’ve been doing. As a wise legend once said “Show, Don’t Tell” – Tommy Misa 2019, and I think we’ve found a lot of freedom and inspiration in that. Also having the playwright, Liz Hobart, in the room has been a dream and Ellen Wiltshire (our director) with her divine energy, has given us so much room to play. Struggle… nope. Its been a dream. You’ve been a dream Tommy, especially with your boiled eggs.

Catch Tommy Misa and Annie Stafford in Betty Breaks Out, by Liz Hobart.
Dates: 27 Aug – 7 Sep, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: Wink (Wheels & Co Productions)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Aug 2 – 24, 2019
Playwright: Jen Silverman
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Eloise Snape, Matthew Cheetham, Graeme McRae , Sam O’Sullivan
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Gregor has skinned his wife’s cat alive, so clearly things are not going well at home. Jen Silverman’s Wink begins at the point of heteronormative ruination, when Gregor and Sophie’s unsatisfying cookie-cutter life together is at breaking point, and something has got to give. Too bad about the cat. Radical transformations happen following Wink’s demise, even the couple’s psychotherapist Frans, undergoes drastic existential alterations. The plan all along to keep things buried, in order to achieve an appearance of success, has failed miserably; something more authentic emerges to take over these lives, but it looks as though this surge of humanity might have come too late.

Silverman’s writing is deliciously wild, with a strong point of view that makes her surreal and irreverent approach sing with purpose. It is a work about the complicated nature of freedom, and the difficulty in returning to one’s true self, after a lifetime of conditioning and conformity. Directed by Anthony Skuse, the show is replete with subtle humour, and its social commentary, informed by a queer feminist sensibility, is delightfully acerbic.

It is a macabre world that we are plunged into, with lights by Phoebe Pilcher and a set by Siobhan Jett O’Hanlon, cleverly conceived to help us situate the action in a range of spaces between real and fantasy. Ben Pierpoint’s sound design impresses with its intricacy, highly effective in how our collective energy is calibrated for every distinct theatrical moment.

Actor Eloise Snape is marvellous as Sophie, delivering the most understated yet powerful comedy through a narrative of frustrated despondency. Her ability to simultaneously convey tragedy and hilarity, whilst performing with deliberate restraint, is extraordinary. Graeme McRae’s portrayal of Gregor is unexpectedly delicate, remarkable for the empathy that he manages to elicit, as the feline murderer. Matthew Cheethan and Sam O’Sullivan play, respectively, the shrink and the cat, both actors wonderfully quirky, for a couple of deeply amusing characters that fascinate at every appearance.

Humans have an insatiable desire for truth, but that impulse is manifested in a million unique ways. We can see the personalities in Wink giving up the external, then turning inward in hope of exchanging their worldly delusions for something genuine. It is tempting to think that our skin is the barrier between truth and lies, that somehow, deep inside, contains something unequivocal and real. This is all conjecture of course, as the human mind, insignificant as it is, will believe what it wishes, and for any of us to think that we are capable of a comprehensive godlike truth, is in itself illusory. We can however, look instead for peace, but how we interpret that concept is, it seems, another million conundrums.

www.facebook.com/wheelscoproductions

5 Questions with Sam O’Sullivan and Eloise Snape

Sam O’Sullivan

Eloise Snape: In Wink you play the titular character, who is a cat. Seeing as you are slightly obsessed with your own cat, Terry, have you enjoyed observing his behaviour and what has been the most interesting part of your research for this role?
Sam O’Sullivan: First of all, great use of the word “titular”. Second, as you know, I always enjoy observing, photographing, playing with, talking about and hanging out with Terry. I think the best thing about him, and cats in general, is that despite their small stature, they have the attitudes and the instincts of larger cats. When we say someone has the heart of a lion, we mean that they’re brave, determined and loyal. Well, Terry actually has the heart of a lion, its just unfortunate that the rest of him is a British Short Hair.

Jen Silverman has an incredibly unique voice. As a fellow writer, what’s your favourite thing about the way she tells this story and why do you think she is an important contemporary voice?
This play is funny. So right away, you know that Silverman knows what she’s doing. What I love about Wink is the way the humour in the play evolves to carry her message. Things that initially feel like a gag or just plain weirdness over time become incredibly potent metaphors. This play is about a lot of things, but for me what resonates and what makes it important is that it interrogates our ideas and preconceptions about what is “normal” and how unhealthy it can be to cling to those ideas. There is a lot of talk about how civilised people should behave in Wink, but ultimately, for the characters to survive they need to destroy that way of thinking.

You’ve worked with Anthony Skuse and Graeme McRae before, many moons ago in Punk Rock. What has been the most enjoyable thing about working together again, now you are all kinda old?
Way harsh, Tai. This is my forth time working with Skusie (previously Punk Rock, Constellations and Platonov) and third with Graeme (Punk Rock and Platonov). Practically speaking, the more you work with people, the more you develop a short hand which means you can get more work done. You can trust each other to be direct with feedback if something isn’t working and you know nothing’s personal. At the end of the day, we’re all friends, we all respect each other’s work and we’re just trying to make the best show possible. With Skusie, I always feel like we’re exploring and discovering the play together. He has an incredible amount of experience and knowledge but on day one of rehearsals I always feel like where starting from the same spot and that we’re collaborating. Once you’ve started from that place, later when you’re alone on stage, you feel like your director has got your back. Graeme just really likes his job. And that enthusiasm is infectious, especially when it’s backed up by someone who’s done the work and is raising the standard in rehearsals every day. All plays need a Graeme.

Wink explores a very unhappy marriage. What lessons have you learnt from Gregor and Sofie’s failed relationship to ensure the same things won’t happen in your own?
Two things: tolerance and patience. Your partner will never be as perfect as you and the sooner you accept that the happier you’ll be. However, the question now is, which one of us is the imperfect one and which one is being patient? Perhaps that’s something you need to answer for yourself. I’ll wait…

You are a movie buff and have your own movie club which is just you and the cat watching movies. What’s your all time favourite movie and why?
For the record, Movie Club is open to everyone. Terry and I are just more committed than the rest of you. I always find questions about a favourite movie difficult because honestly, I just like movies. They’re my happy place. I don’t like absolutely everything, but I like a lot of stuff, even “bad” movies. My go-to answer for this question is usually Trainspotting because it’s the first movie that I remember having a profound effect on me. I would have been about twelve when I saw it and I think at the time it redefined a lot of what I thought cinema had to be. The narration, the structure, a guy diving into a toilet to retrieve his suppositories. I grew up watching things like Star Wars and Back to the Future and I love those films but Trainspotting broke so many conventions that it opened up a whole new world of storytelling for me.

Eloise Snape

Sam O’Sullivan: Why do you watch so much reality television? Is it because you hate art?
Ok first of all, I am very picky with my reality TV viewing. I would call myself a Survivor fan, but I’m not nek level. I was recently invited into the Survivor Super Fan Facebook group and those people are FANS. I am a rookie floating around in there. I also enjoy The Bachelor for the pure lobotomy. When I truly want to switch my brain off and literally dribble, mouth open in front of the television, I watch The Bach. It’s also highly amusing. Everyone has their thing, yours is video games, mine is shit television.

In Wink, your character is struggling with a selfish and uncommunicative partner. How did you prepare for this, given that your real partner is so generous?
As surprising as this may sound, I have dated other people before you, Sam O’Sullivan.

Your character’s cat also goes missing. In a Sophie’s Choice type situation where you had to pick between me and our cat, Terry, honestly, who would you pick and why?
Tricky question. The best thing about cats is they love you unconditionally as long as you can provide them with a quality can of cat food. You on the other hand require more than cat food to keep happy. BUT, Terry doesn’t bring ME food. You are very generous with your feeding of me and you aren’t a shabby cook either. So I choose you. Sorry Terrence.

Wink could be interpreted in a number of different ways. In just three words, what is Jen Silverman’s play actually about?
Identity. Desire. Transformation.

You’ve acted in and produced a lot of Sydney theatre. Is there a production that holds a special place in your heart?
This is super tricky. I have done a lot of independent theatre and the nature of indie productions is that people work above and beyond to create something special and because everyone ends up doing multiple jobs you really all become a family. Also the run never feels long enough – so it’s always hard to say goodbye at the end. But Amy Herzog’s play, 4000 Miles, also directed by Skusie, which I did back in 2013 is the first show I produced and acted in after drama school and it was with my bestie, Stephen Multari. That was why we started MopHead and the show toured around Australia and the rest is history.

Catch Sam O’Sullivan and Eloise Snape in Wink by Jen Silverman.
Dates: 2 – 24 Aug, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

Review: Omar And Dawn (Apocalypse Theatre Company / Green Door Theatre Company)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jul 12 – 27, 2019
Playwright: James Elazzi
Director: Dino Dimitriadis
Cast: Maggie Blinco, Antony Makhlouf, Lex Marinos, Mansoor Noor
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Dawn is 80 years of age, and a passionate foster carer. Omar is her latest ward, a wayward teenager who has little but frustration and anger to fill his days. Omar often joins Ahmed on a bridge, unwillingly selling sex to local closet cases. The two boys share an intimate relationship, bonded by homelessness, and similar cultural backgrounds that relegate them as outsiders. James Elazzi’s Omar And Dawn tells the story of gay teens from Lebanese-Australian and Muslim sections of our community. Along with its simultaneous focus on the ageing population of white Australians, the play brings together these two neglected groups, for an unexpected theatrical juxtaposition that reveals a facet of our national identity usually kept under wraps. There is a lot of shame here, but none of it is of our protagonists’ doing. The invisible character in Elazzi’s play is Australia, the part of us that is ignorant, heartless, and wholly responsible for the suffering that people like Omar and Dawn have to endure.

Elazzi’s writing is deeply insightful, exquisite in its ability to put to action, and to words, parts of life that we habitually avoid. There is a fearlessness in its interrogation of the taboo, that makes Oman And Dawn so fascinating; although it sits right under our noses, real talent is required to make us see it properly. Directed by Dino Dimitriadis, the show is extraordinarily tender, and even though sentimental in its rendering, it communicates succinctly, bringing to light with little fuss, that which we have long needed to acknowledge. The production offers an emotional experience, but there is no mistaking the coldness upon which our empathy is drawn. Lights by Benjamin Brockman and sound by Ben Pierpoint portray the steely and pitiless qualities of being Australian, with Aleisa Jelbart’s stage design of grey gravel further asserting the needlessly harsh conditions that some of us are subjected to.

Actor Antony Makhlouf is an energetic presence, and although repetitive with his expressions of Omar’s angst, an unmistakable sincerity in his performance keeps us sympathetic to his plight. Maggie Blinco plays a very dignified Dawn, to provide an elegant, and deceptively quiet, study of a self-assured woman determined to do what is right. Effervescence is brought by Lex Marinos, who is convincing, and wonderfully entertaining, as Dawn’s mechanic brother Darren. It is surprising perhaps, that the most poignant moments come from supporting actor Mansoor Noor, whose powerful depiction of Ahmed’s turmoil, has us spellbound and devastated. The authenticity in Noor’s display of despondency shows remarkable skill, and although profoundly heartbreaking, delivers some seriously delicious drama.

When people become homeless, our impulse is to question the individual, as though our lives are so conveniently detached. Many of us have faced abandonment, by people whose duty it is to love and care for us. How we move from a broken nest, to find a new space of security, will only ever be hard. Omar is always on the verge of giving up, but Dawn has enough resilience for the both of them. She understands that to give of herself, is the only way to escape emptiness. It looks very much like unconditional love, but the reciprocity of that relationship is unequivocal, even if it is not immediately evident.

www.apocalypsetheatrecompany.com | www.greendoortheatreco.com

Review: Trevor (Outhouse Theatre Co)

Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jun 14 – Jul 6, 2019
Playwright: Nick Jones
Director: Shaun Rennie
Cast: Di Adams, Jemwel Danao, Garth Holcombe, David Lynch, Ainslie McGlynn, Jamie Oxenbould, Eloise Snape
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Sandra owns a pet chimpanzee, who in Nick Jones’ Trevor, fancies himself a professional performer, having appeared as a younger primate, on stage and screen. Work has dried up, and Trevor is increasingly restless about his career’s downward trajectory. This of course, is all in his own mind, with Sandra completely oblivious about the turmoil that is brewing inside of the animal. Trevor is given his own voice by the playwright, but he talks as though in a monologue, never expecting any of the humans to understand, thus setting up for the play an inter-species disconnect that figures heavily as its ultimate raison d’etre.

Actor Jamie Oxenbould is persuasive as the chimp, with animalistic energy emanating from all of his being, without excessive reliance on physical mimicry. We believe his ambitions and his frustrations as Trevor, and appreciate the dramatic escalations being presented, through every plot development. Similarly convincing is Di Adams as Sandra, whose own problems are revealed at a slower pace, although no less powerful. There is however, a significantly stronger emphasis on Trevor’s experience than there is on Sandra’s, and considering our predictable affinity with the human character, it is a strange choice that prevents us from a closer empathy with the story.

In allowing Sandra to be somewhat subsumed in the production, director Shaun Rennie risks a distance that could result in a degree of emotional detachment for the audience, but it is a show that is relentless lively, and we find ourselves consistently involved, if not always invested. In a similar vein, Garth Holcombe and Eloise Snape both play larger than life, and very flamboyant personalities, who amuse us at every appearance, but who do little in engaging us on more profound levels. Their costumes though, are notably striking, humorously assembled by Jonathan Hindmarsh, who also solves spatial challenges as set designer, with demarcations of the stage that are, by and large, surprisingly effective. Lights by Kelsey Lee and sound by Melanie Herbert too, are accomplished, for an overall theatrical impact that proves gratifying.

It is absurd that a creature like Trevor should ever be kept as a pet. Human environments are barely feasible for our own survival, yet we insist on removing animals from their natural habitats, to put up with what we know is completely impracticable for them. This is the extent of our arrogance and narcissism. We see nature as a resource to be plundered, and fail to consider the consequences of our incessant exploitation. Trevor is about nature fighting back, and a timely work that opens up discussions about extinction, of the human race.

www.outhousetheatre.org

5 Questions with Maggie Blinco and Lex Marinos

Maggie Blinco

Lex Marinos: What is your earliest performing memory?
Maggie Blinco: Earliest memory was in Russell Lea Kindergarten where I was cast as Mary Mary Quite Contrary which I think was a bit of early typecasting. The rest of the class sat as flowers in a row and I watered them and made the mistake of actually getting a drop on my best friend. She glowered and I knew what was in store for me.

Who has influenced you most?
Rex Cramphorn… I did not become “professional” till I was in my late thirties and for some years was cast on my comic and loud brash persona. For some reason I have never plumbed, Rex cast me in a very serious role in Edward Bond’s Summer, down in Melbourne at Playbox Theatre. It was the beginning of an awakening and a fruitful collaboration with that wonderful man.

What do you pursue when not acting?
I knit a lot. Complicated Kaffe Fasset patterns, A variety of stuff. I find it soothing and very good for the grey matter, working out patterns. I love cooking and getting friends around a table, actors mainly I suppose.I have a lovely family and spend time with them as much as possible. I shop and cook and keep house just like any old fashioned woman.

How many grandkids do you have?
3 granchildren. Over the years I have been very involved with them and minded them all a great deal when they were young. I had fun with them and I dearly love them.

Are you married? Are you wealthy? Answer second question first.
Unfortunately I am a poverty stricken actress who only occasionally makes any reasonable money, despite my long experience.If you were not already married to that lovely wife you have I might have grabbed you years ago.I do love working with you on this play. A sense of humour is a vital element in any man and you are loaded with it.

Lex Marinos

Maggie Blinco: Why do you balk at answering questions?
Lex Marinos: Um …

What do you enjoy most in life?
Waking up, realising I haven’t died in my sleep, it’s always on my bucket list. Then it’s family. I’m blessed with wife kids, grandkids, brother, aunts, cousins nieces nephews, in laws outlaws… all with interesting lives. We laugh as our default setting and cry when necessary.vI remember my Papou: “My child’s child is twice my child”

Can you remember why you wanted to be an actor/entertainer?
To find fame, fortune, and a girlfriend. Admittedly 1 out of 3 is not a great return, but I’ve kept on keeping on. Did’t want to work in the café. Didn’t want to work in an office. Didn’t want a regular job. Wanted to create shows like Omar And Dawn. Wanted to meet interesting people like you. Wanted to travel to exotic places like Tasmania and Qatar.

What is your simple guiding philosophy for dealing with this crazy world?
I just try and get through the day, aware of how capricious life is and that people can be dangerously dumb and brilliantly smart.

Do you cook?
I reheat and make salad and toast… Sometimes I do lamb shanks or a curry. I’m surrounded by brilliant cooks and am happy to serve as their taster.

Maggie Blinco and Lex Marinos can be seen in Omar And Dawn by James Elazzi.
Dates: 12 – 27 Jul, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre

5 Questions with Jemwel Danao and Eloise Snape

Jemwel Danao

Eloise Snape: If your character Jerry was an animal, what animal would he be and why?
Jemwel Danao: Well, Jerry is an animal control officer so I would say… a dog! He’s very much like a dog with a bone. He’s very persistent, tenacious, and committed. 

We’ve had to invent a sort of gibberish language for a few moments in the show – how challenging was it and how did you tackle it? Also, please write 2 random sentences in gibberish. 
It was mind-boggling! Unlike anything I’ve ever done before. As a cast, once we found our structure of the gibberish, I was able to go away and process it. Finally, it all came down to rigorous repetition and understanding the intention behind the thought. From there, everything fell into place. 
Emoc hctaw ruo yalp. S’ti a tooh! 

Why is a play like Trevor important?
It deals with the impact of what happens when you try to domesticate a wild animal. During the course of the play, it delves into some very human issues such as miscommunication. That happens on every level in relationships all the time. Especially in this complex human-animal/mother-son story we see unfold on stage. It also explores the allure of stardom and what happens when dreams become unfulfilled which ultimately becomes a source of pain, anguish and ruin.
 
What’s one of your favourite moments in the play?
Without giving anything away, when we dive into the facets of Trevor’s imagination. It’s sheer hilarity! In rehearsals I still catch myself laughing at the same jokes over and over again. So it’s a true testament to the actors who keep those moments fresh and alive. 

If you had a pet chimp, what would you name it and why?
Bubbles! Wait – didn’t Michael Jackson have a pet chimp named Bubbles?

Eloise Snape

Jemwel Danao: Eloise, what drew you to Trevor? 
Eloise Snape: The script and the team of actors and creatives. I’ve never read a script like Trevor before! It’s hilarious and dark and I love the whole element of miscommunication. Trevor’s voice is really strong and sharp. I love that the play encourages us to look at ourselves through the lens of an animal. And yeah, it’s a pretty wonderful group of intelligent and fun chums, so how could I resist?

What has been your biggest challenge in the rehearsal process? 
Without a doubt the biggest challenge for me has been turning off the voice inside my head that stops me from following the interesting, big and absurd choices because they are a little scary. And comedy is scary. Morgan is a wonderfully fun character but it’s very easy to feel eggy and silly and BIG. So I’ve really had to allow myself to make wrong choices and feel like a bit of a dick sometimes. I’m lucky that Shaun is such an excellent director so I’ve been able to trust him and feel safe in the room to play. But the challenge is allowing myself to also trust my instincts.

What’s the best or worst advice you’ve been given about acting? 
Good question Jem. I reckon the best piece of advice I was ever given was probably ‘don’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring…’

If you could attempt another career other then acting what would it be?
It would absolutely be something to do with travel and/or aviation! I’m a bit obsessed with planes. But I’m also a little frightened of flying. Once I deal with that minor (major) speed bump on my path to being a pilot I reckon that would be the go. I also love animals. I once considered working in animal quarantine at the airport. Prob need some skills for that. Not to be pilot though. Just chuck me in the cockpit whatevs.

Every actor has a dream role, what’s yours? 
This is one of those questions where I think I know the answer immediately but I can’t think of one thing probably because there are so many! But to be honest at the moment a little dream of mine would to be in a ripper film or TV show made by excellent funny women, like Bridesmaids. Basically, I wish I was in Bridesmaids. Or maybe I just want to be friends with Melissa McCarthy. All of the above.

Jemwel Danao and Eloise Snape can be seen in Trevor, by Nick Jones.
Dates: 14 Jun – 6 Jul, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre