Rain, a lot of rain.
I have been part of a tribe
we have been making a movie
I read some Bukowski sitting around on location
His poem : the burning of the dream … It took me back to younger days.
This comes out partially processed. It does contain nuts because the machinery that processed it is full of them.
I wonder sometimes how odd it may be when I start sharing experiences. We all have experiences we only really discover are unusual after we’ve shared them and received some kind of feedback about them. My mother recently told me to remember I am now, “an elder,” her way of telling me to behave like an adult. Fair advice because I don’t particularly spend time thinking this way and timely advice because when she said it I was about to go off and do something I hadn’t thought about doing for a few years; acting.
When I first relocated to Adelaide from Sydney in 2005 it was to be nearer to my father whose health was failing. I left a very satisfactory situation behind me, something I surprised myself by walking away from. Inside the work of Community Broadcasting it is easy to become absorbed by ‘the moment’ interviewing people for a reason, getting to the point, highlighting any genuine significance and moving on with the clock. I enjoyed producing radio and interviewing people. I enjoyed being connected to things I love in a cosmopolitan city. I enjoyed being ‘on-air’ and occasionally having the opportunity to do something creative on my own terms.
Relocating to a city I had long left behind was motivated by emotional family bonds. Lifting everything up and shifting it one and a half thousand kilometres away is a large step for a guy like me. In 2005 Adelaide mainly represented early chapters of my life that were packed away with sealed sections untouched. As always there was a lot of unfinished emotional business for me in Adelaide that I didn’t much look forward to encountering a la carte.
After landing in Adelaide I sought out a community radio station to become involved and hopefully continue developing my skills. I had started a Training and Assessment Certification in Sydney in order to become a Trainer in Community Radio and had hoped to complete it; I knew things would be different in Adelaide. Sydney and Adelaide are vastly different.
I wanted to get involved in community arts, to hold on to some of what I had left behind; I knew it may be a struggle. Moving from a big place to a small place means everything is less; less opportunities (less people). This isn’t a value judgement, only a fact. Adelaide has a great deal on offer, but not as much as Sydney. There were also quite a few grey areas in Adelaide for me, after all this is where I grew up.
In my relocation I started out with full time work which went well for about a year until reduced funding turned it to a part time job just before I was sent packing for making a rookie mistake, so I shifted from having some security to oodles of insecurity rapidly. I spend a little time thinking “What was I thinking moving back here?” it felt like I had deliberately moved backwards in time and place by at least a decade.
When I was younger I had no great trouble shifting from Adelaide to Melbourne and then Sydney on busses and trains. It was a no-brainer to stay in Sydney because that was where the work was for me at the time and it wasn’t difficult to go to Adelaide and do something if required. I do not hold a driving license but I could grab a lift or get a bus, a train, sometimes fly if I had to go back to do something in Adelaide. I bussed over to do some dubbing of my scenes in Robbery Under Arms at my own expense because I didn’t want to be dubbed by someone else. In those days it didn’t cost much for an overnight bus ride and my little turn in Robbery was important to me because it was my first role after getting the thumbs down from NIDA.
I had not been invited to continue into the second year of the acting course at NIDA so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do at first. I had lived in Sydney for a year in a share house with other acting students, Cate, Rosalba and Kris. I had known Cate the longest and had already been in a share house with her while working for The Acting Company in Adelaide. It seemed that Adelaide was where I should go after spending a few weeks on the road with a fellow student William . He and I had visited yet another student Gail, up in Queensland to do some travelling over summer. We three were all waiting for our letter from NIDA to see if we were continuing in the course (although I knew they were not asking me back to act). I knew I was not really standing out or being what NIDA wanted me to aim at being, which was more or less a happy sort of fellow, bit of a joker, potentially suave maybe; I was generally anxious and getting more so as time passed. I didn’t like my living arrangements, I didn’t like being away from home and I didn’t like being same sex attracted. I thought being same sex attracted was the result of being abused when I was younger and I wasn’t mature enough or self confident enough to seek out help for the feelings I had.
I dealt with my feelings by ignoring them mostly which was anything but conducive to progressing in an acting course. I am pretty sure I spent most of my time at NIDA suffering from post traumatic stress. At that time I probably used acting and involvement in the arts as a type of distraction therapy on some level. I really enjoyed playing a part, leaning lines, becoming a character for the most part because it provided me a distraction from reality which I was not at all fond of.
Things had not started out this way. Reality was a fine thing for the first few years of life and the only performance I would do was singing. I have fond memories of singing at Church when I was very young. I don’t know why, or who taught it to me, but I got up and sang ‘Jesus is my keeper’ when I was six or seven.
I have only done a few performances in Churches in my personal life. There was my debut at Christies Beach Church of Christ in 1968 singing followed by some performance poetry around 1978 at the Port Noarlunga Uniting Church, then it would have been 1998 or thereabout when I took a role in the Nativity as a Wise King (dragging a couple of aspiring actor friends along with me) which turned out to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments I’ve ever had in front of an audience. In my professional life I’ve performed in plenty of church buildings and halls over the years because the architecture lends itself to being renovated into a theatre space so well.
That 1998 Nativity was just so funny. I had been directing a play and teaching some classes and I felt a hankering to do some acting on a personal level. I didn’t really want to go through a big audition process or anything I just wanted to volunteer some of my spare time to being in something and treading the boards so when someone asked if I may be interested in being in a play for a church that seemed a good idea.
I was in a Nativity at Kindergarten so I knew the story. Evidently the Church of Saint Luke needed a Wise King which I figured I could do. What I had not realised was how big the production was. It cast a net all through the parish; particularly through the parish’s extensive outreach program.
I once lived in Potts Point beside Kings Cross, which was a notorious part of Sydney and created theatre at venues like the All Nations Club, Wayside Chapel and the Stables Theatre, so used syringes in the gutters, drunks, druggies, sex workers were all part of the landscape. The Kings Cross area was a fascinating place to work developing theatre. At one point I was focused on development using a process mastered by film maker and playwright Mike Leigh while I was living in Potts Point. The process involved developing characters with actors in an isolated one on one situation. I had used a very similar process with Bruce Keller creating Puppy Love (albeit a childlike universe the process was pretty much the same).
Working with actors one-on-one meant going out and meeting them around the place and talking with them about their character or being with them while they were ‘in character’ and chatting, taking a journey, with me occasionally side-coaching them from topic to topic. We could meet in a bar, at a shop, on the street. This was a very interesting process; the actors were all more experienced in film so their approach was quite different in relation to classical stage performance; everything more subtle and interior, in keeping with the medium.
During a ‘development week’ at Griffin I had directed a staged performance of a new opera by Gary Cook ‘On this Kings Cross’ featuring Angela Toohey as a waif in Kings Cross getting mixed up with drug dealers and sex workers, previous to that I’d performed staged -readings of work by Alex Broun and others that explored the seedier side of 1980’s Sydney featuring sex work and drug deals, murders, misadventures so by the time I was fronting up to rehearse a Nativity in the late 1990’s as a recreational pursuit I felt pretty streetwise.
What I didn’t know about being part of a Nativity in a local church was what became so amusing for me at the time, shameful as it is in retrospect; I hadn’t met the whole cast because there were so many of them. I appeared in a few scenes beside two other wise Kings; we had scenes with King Herod, then at the birth of Christ and another as we left for our respective Kingdoms. My companion Kings were two fellows I had met briefly at a reading one afternoon. One of them had such a thick accent I could barely understand a word he said, luckily his lines always followed mine, unfortunately he did not really understand English so he tended to wait an uncomfortably long while before he would deliver a line. The other fellow examined his arm continuously because he had his script attached to it with elastic bands. I always spoke after him.
It felt like being in the middle of a BBC Christmas Special somewhere not too far left of Dibley when the Virgin Mary had quite a severe lisp too much make-up on her face; impossible to any natural good looks. King Herod’s turn was the Diva of the production; played all his scenes with such a silly voice it was seriously difficult not to fall about laughing.
The whole show started with the parish Priest running in calling out “Jesus is coming!” several times which started one of my actor friends giggling because we had been reading through some of Barry Lowes’ work about Joey Stefano, where there was similar language used in a different context; but these things trigger thoughts some times, double entendres can be any actor’s sudden death.
Being reminded by mum that I am ‘an elder’ gave me some pause for thought; the way reading Charles Bukowski does. I focused on my own experiences, Bruce Beresford in 1978 explaining what we were doing and why he was slinging handfuls of pebbles around us, John Meillon having a bad day on location in 1985, conversations with Holly Hunter, Simon Pegg and Sir Ian McKellen about working on stage as opposed to film; particularly Hunter’s approach to working with steady-cam, being precise and rehearsing. Holly Hunter likes to rehearse the moves; so do I.
I enjoy acting. It was all I ever really wanted to do.
Yesterday was so warm and sunny. Today it is cold and threatens to rain again.