Storyteller/Theatre Artist @ Hearth Tales
When I was 5, my Grade Prep class performed “The Little White Duck,” accompanied by the music of Burl Ives. A small group of students played each of the main characters – the duck, the frog, the bug and the snake – and I was one of a chorus of lily-pads. We all wore identical white dresses, with a string of cut-out lily-pads around our waists. I remember the excitement of being on that stage. I remember the buzz of the audience and I remember the smell of that dusty, old auditorium and its red velvet curtains. I also vividly remember thinking, “They have made a terrible mistake. I should be the one out the front.” This was where my destiny began to take shape.
Since then I have worked as a theatre practitioner, storyteller and community artist in a broad range of settings, over 30 years, telling stories to audiences ranging from 3000, at Dallas Brooks Hall, Melbourne, to intimate garden parties.
I initially trained at Rusden College, later Deakin University, majoring in Drama and Literature. In 1993, I did a year’s training for professional actors, at John Bolton Theatre School, in Williamstown. This was a life-changing experience.
I set up my first solo arts business in 1995, after completing the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, run especially for artists, by Clarke Carthew. As Soulworks Theatre, I offered short theatre works, storytelling performances and artistic direction, for corporations, community groups, festivals and schools; responding to a range of themes including fair work practices, mental health, women’s issues, domestic violence, families, youth and housing.
Parallel to creating a broad range of theatre works, I also taught performing arts and directed over 22 full scale theatrical productions, at Deakin University, The University High School and Warrandyte High School. This further developed my skills in directing, theatre management and design. At La Mama, I devised and performed Anyone Home? with Heather McConnell, 1995, performed in Tango Femme, directed by Brenda Addie, 2011 and directed Out With The Bath Water, in 2003.
In 2012-14, as a guest lecturer, at Melbourne University, I contributed to the Story, Myth and Symbol course, led by Dr. Pam Macintyre. Pam’s invitation was to lecture on the oral tradition of storytelling to tertiary students, exploring its ancient origins, as well as its relevance in our contemporary society. It was very gratifying to be told that after my visit the students had all “fallen in love with storytelling.”
As a creative practitioner, I love to move between many mediums. For theatre I’ve been director, actor, playwright, stage manager, costume designer, set designer, lighting operator and sound designer. To nourish my creative work, I also sing, paint, draw and have begun developing works using multimedia.
It was during my Solo Residency at Victoria University, in 2011, that I was able to reinvigorate my arts practice, and established my storytelling business, Hearth Tales, based at Abbotsford Convent. This lead me to focus on contributing to what has continued to emerge as a world-wide renaissance in the oral tradition. Sometimes this means being a storyteller, but I have also enjoyed facilitating and enabling the development of storytelling skills amongst tellers, young and old, in the rapidly growing storytelling community in Melbourne. My tenancy at Abbotsford Convent lead to many collaborations with other theatre professionals, storytellers and musicians. I initiated Enchanted Evening, a night of traditional stories, music and a hearty supper, which was held every month for two years, in the Bishop’s Parlour and was regularly sold out.
This year, I was invited to tell stories in Ireland, at the Sneem International Storytelling Festival, in Kerry. This has grown into a performance and research tour, including concerts in Cork, and Waterford.
When I was last in Ireland, in 2008, I went to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. As I readied myself to lean out over the battlements of Blarney Castle, I said to the fellow who was hanging onto my legs (so I wouldn’t fall to my death),
“If you already have the gift of the gab, will kissing the stone take it away?”
To which he replied with a laugh,
“Ah, no! It’ll only make it worse!”
So, I instructed him with gusto –
“Lower me down!” And they haven’t been able to stop me telling stories ever since!