Curious creative community during COVID-19
Wednesday 19 August 2020
This week, artist Emily Tomlins explores the career advice she’d like to share with her younger self in Brain Food, Development Coordinator Olivia Satchell remembers her first experience with a Polyglot show in a Story Map reflection, and Executive Director Viv Rosman outlines how the Polyglot team are streamlining their to-do lists during stage 4 restrictions in a working from home tip.
Considered commentary – Polyglot and beyond
What are the three pieces of career advice that you’d like to share with your younger self?
Emily Tomlins, Artist
I think about it often. Possibly too much. Like a Sliding Doors scenario. What would my life have been like if…? Did I need to know more? How did I get here? What would I change about the journey?
Emerging into our industry as a young artist, as a young performer, in this country, is difficult. It’s not about the amount of work, although there will always be a dearth of that – it’s the information that there are only a few select paths to follow. There’s the idea that when you graduate acting school (which in itself is only one of a myriad of paths to get to this point) you will join the legions of people who swarm on Sydney and eventually fly to LA to realise their dreams as screen actors, or you will stay in Australia and work within the subsidised realm on our states’ main stages. I honestly thought, for way too long, that these were my choices, and that this is what success looked like. That’s what I was told. That’s what we were all told.
It was common knowledge that if you worked on the fringes, independently, it was a means to an end. It was training camp. It was a way to hone your craft while you waited for someone important to pluck you from obscurity and welcome you to the club. I so badly wanted to be part of that club. Not film. I had one love. From the moment I could remember things, I knew I loved theatre. And I was lucky. From an early age, my parents took me to a lot of it. We went to independent shows in tiny theatres and big shows in state theatres and middling shows in between. But somehow, from somewhere, I formed an opinion that the big ones in the schmick theatres was where I wanted to be. It wasn’t the quality of the shows and it wasn’t the size of the theatres, or even the talent of the actors, that brought me to this idea. Somewhere I understood, that some of this theatre was “valued” and some of it wasn’t. And the idea of success was always bound up in that value – the value of money.
When I graduated from acting school, I was again very lucky. I started to get those jobs I dreamed of. I worked at both of the major theatre companies in my hometown – Brisbane. I worked with my heroes – the people I grew up watching. I learned so much. I was paid for my work. I was on cloud nine. But something was missing. There were voices missing. There were lots of people missing. And although I worked on a lot of new work, there was an edge that was absent. There were questions that weren’t being asked. There were people we weren’t reaching. Legions of them.
After several years, I moved to Melbourne. All of a sudden, I was introduced to some new ideas. Independent wasn’t a place you waited until you were discovered, it was a potential platform for those missing voices. It was a place of risk and politics and it was reaching new people. I also discovered this concept of small to medium. There was a whole part of our industry, quietly working away, even in my hometown, that on the smell of an oily rag, was bending over backwards, to take cultural experiences and theatre to young people, to communities. They were working with skeleton staff and providing programs that reached people nationally, internationally. They created art that spoke about other experiences, that strived to be inclusive and accessible. They made things of beauty with some of the most talented people I had ever met, and they did all of this while struggling to keep afloat. But they did it. They actually did it. And once again I found myself one of the lucky ones. I found myself falling into this world of the small to medium, of the independents, the risk takers, the change makers. This is where I live now. I make my living from this entirely. My life, my thinking, my learning comes from this.
So, I only have one piece of advice for my younger self. I have one thing to say to those who are starting out. There isn’t one path. There are many. There isn’t one type of theatre. There isn’t one type of performer. There isn’t one company to strive for. There are many. Just as there are many voices to be heard. There are many questions to be asked. There are many stories to be told. There are many people to tell. So strive. Dream. Work hard. But when an opportunity presents itself that seems a different shape to the one you imagined, say yes anyway. Jump in with both feet. It might just open the door to a universe of worlds. And being a part of that universe – that’s what success looks like.
Photographer: Theresa Harrison
Building a collection of memories to savour our history
Olivia Satchell, Development Coordinator
I had the chance to attend Paper Planet at Cranbourne Gardens less than a month after I started working for Polyglot. A number of us piled into a car for the 50-minute drive from Abbotsford Convent and I remember feeling excited – this was to be my first experience of a Polyglot work, and I’d never even known there was a second Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. When we arrived, we made our way up a tree-lined path and I could see, even before I stepped into the entrance building, that somehow the outside had spilled inside. A forest was bristling out of a room off the main atrium and squeals of delight were bouncing off the walls. Once across this magic-laden threshold, I set to the significant task of making myself a caterpillar hat whilst watching a very serious small boy dutifully follow a crocodile around the room. I was invited to make berries for the tree branches closest to me and overheard a conversation about angel wings and how much tissue paper you need to get them just right. Everywhere, I could see bright-eyed joy. As far as first times go, it was one of the best.
Photographer: Mark Gambino, courtesy of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Achieving and retaining clarity and focus while working from home
Viv Rosman, Executive Director and co-CEO
Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne has brought a new weight to the unique challenges of 2020. As we watch our friends and colleagues around the country return to an existence that looks a whole lot more fun than ours, staying focussed at work has never been harder. Many of us are managing multiple hurdles – children at home, mental health challenges and the emotional demands of supporting loved ones. Getting work done can sometimes feel like wading through mud. In response, we’re taking an approach that prioritises wellbeing at this time and focusses on the essential “must do” list only. “Must do” brings clarity to a list of tasks – it weeds out all the shoulds and if onlys. It’s releasing our team from guilt and allowing us to direct precious energy to where it’s most needed. What are your “must dos” this week?
Photographer: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash