Polyglot Spot – edition #15

Curious creative community during COVID-19

A Voice Lab production photo. A child wearing blue leggings and a colourful tunic crawls under white fabric into a white dome structure. Green light emanates from within, and a bed of white elastic tangle spills out onto canvas.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

The wonderfully warmer weather and the faint twinkle of festivity in the air heralds the end of a strange year. The days are longer, celebrations of all sorts are being planned (COVID cautiously of course) and summer holiday plans dreamed up. This week brings us to edition 15 of Polyglot Spot – a curious, creative project borne out of the long months of Melbourne’s lockdown. Artist and Awesomeness Facilitator Lachlan MacLeod introduces himself in Meet Polyglot, and Artist Sylvie Meltzer shares a Brain Food piece about Voice Lab. Is there anything that you’d like to see in the final editions of Polyglot Spot? Email your thoughts to communications@polyglot.org.au.

Meet Polyglot

Meet the team that powers Polyglot. CEOs, creatives, production, admin, board. We work together to keep the colourful cogs turning!

Name: Lachlan MacLeod
Title: Awesomeness Facilitator
Years with Polyglot: 12 years! Has it really been that long?

A Sound of Drawing production photo. An artist and two children sit at a table covered in brown paper that is filled with colourful, abstract pastel drawing. One child wears black headphones, and is drawing with a purple pastel. Both children are smiling.

Photo: Sarah Walker, Sound of Drawing 

What is the ‘elevator pitch’ description of your role at Polyglot?

Over the past 12 years I have managed to weasel my way into most facets of Polyglot. I perform and tour around the world in most of Polyglot’s big shows; as a puppeteer, performer and musician depending on the gig; I run workshops, film shows, make videos and animations and compose music for them as well. And I have been deeply involved in the creation and development and operation of Voice Lab in its many iterations. I guess you could say I’m a Lach of all trades.

What is something about being a Polyglot artist that would surprise someone who doesn’t work in the arts?

That as a Polyglot artist, at any point in the year I could be at a local school creating shadows with kids’ bodies, or moving crumbs around as a giant Ant at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, or creating beautiful music dressed as a beaver in a giant cardboard beaver hide, or talking to kids about mental illness as a disembodied, artificially intelligent voice. And that I could be doing any of these things from any one of the 12+ countries around the world that I’ve toured to in the last 12 years. Sometimes I think people hear children’s theatre and they think “oh yeah, you do traditional theatre shows on a stage or at a school” but when they actually hear what we do as Polyglot Artists they are completely blown away by the scope and breadth of our practice.

What part of your work with Polyglot do you most look forward to?

I think I most look forward to the different connections within our work. The interactions with the kids; the magic moments of connection that appear throughout our shows. The connections made when collaborating with the other Poly artists; when suddenly these amazing performative moments emerge from thin air. Or the amazing and beautiful connections we make with kids and other artists around the world when we tour; spreading the Polyglot magic throughout the world and leaving bits of that magic behind in the local performers who we work with and the local children who we connect with.

What and where did you study?

I studied Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne and majored in media production, but the course was a real melting pot of different creative practices, from Arts theory, writing and performance to sound and film production. I spent many years afterwards telling people how it was fun but it didn’t really get me anywhere, until one day I found myself at Polyglot thinking, oh wow I am actually using every element of that course in my current practice!

What are you missing about the Polyglot office?

I’m really missing just dropping in and chatting with everyone, stealing a slice of whatever delicious pastry or cake someone has made for the team and bumping into other artists and crew that I might not have seen since we were in a completely different country together six months ago. All of those smiling faces as you come in the door of that beautiful sunlit new office is a pretty wonderful thing to see. I miss that.

A Feast production photo. An artist wearing black glasses, a blue hair net, blue t-shirt and white smock stands with their hand on their hip, making an exaggerated grimace. A group of children and adults stand around a table in front of them, absorbed in making. The white background features black line drawings and colourful paper creations.

Photo: Jason Lau, courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne, Feast

Brain Food

What is a Polyglot experience that has stayed with you?

A behind-the-scenes Voice Lab photo. An artist with dark hair, wearing a black t-shirt and a black headset with attached microphone, is smiling widely. They are in a white dome structure illuminated with blue light.

Sylvie Meltzer, Artist

Something that strikes me when I am part of a Polyglot project, workshop, or performance is that every single time the experience feels like ‘my favourite one ever’. I think this might be because the nature of the work is so explorative and unpredictable (in all the right ways). As an artist, you have this amazing opportunity to give yourself permission to be led just that little bit further, and be that little bit braver, when following children into the vast lands of the imagination.

One of my most loved roles with Polyglot is as a Voice Lab operator. It’s a space where I have spent many colour-filled hours, listening and talking with kids who share the brightest of hopes, the biggest of dreams and the funniest of stories. I have spoken to kids from kindergarten to high school about life, the environment, their communities, their worries, their superpowers, and their thoughts about how to make positive changes in this world. I have also seen how their voices DO and CAN create change, and how powerful something like Voice Lab is in helping their voices be heard.

One Voice Lab experience has stayed with me in a really deep way. Late last year I had the privilege to be part of a development for the accessible module. We were creating a place where children who communicate in really diverse ways could be seen and heard. I hadn’t had a huge amount of experience working with young people who have profound disabilities. I was excited to learn more about how theatre-based spaces and immersive experiences can create connections between artists and participants.

We had just had a session with a child who was non-verbal and vision impaired. He came out of the large cardboard box draped in white tangle and rope lights and asked for his favourite song, La Bamba. Someone started playing it on their phone and he started to dance. We all began to sing. ‘La La Bamba…La La Bamba’. In this dark drama room lit by soft blue ocean lights we sang and danced – brought together around this young person. I hope he felt the moment that he had created for us all – because that ‘moment’ was his voice and it had been heard.

I’m really excited about the different directions Voice Lab is going, and it would be incredible for this model to be developed further. As an artist who is hearing impaired, I learnt a huge lesson being part of that space – there are so many different ways to listen.

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