Performer Interview: Bree Turner07 Sep 2015, by Interviews in
Ilana from Auslan Stage Left spoke with writer and performer Bree Turner about her upcoming Melbourne Fringe Festival show ‘Glory Whole’. Glory Whole is a coming of womanhood story that explores female sexuality, feminism and a myriad of ‘first times’.
Read on to see what Bree has to say about her working as an independent theatre maker, exploring her feminism and her experience working with Auslan.
ASL: How did you come to be a theatre maker?
BT: I started off studying a Bachelor of Performing Arts at Monash University, from 2009 – 2011, to just get a well rounded view of theatre and what it’s like to be a theatre maker. I didn’t have any delusions of becoming a world famous actor, I preferred writing and directing. After that, I actually moved to Nepal, to teach English in a small village called Sukekot [in the Palpa District] and also I taught some acting in the Actor’s Studio in Katmandu, with Anup Baral. That was really great, to have some kind of outlet after having hit the books for three years straight, it was nice to embody it, and somewhere else in the world as well.
After Nepal, I decided I needed a break from theatre, and I was really interested in travel writing and journalism, so I started writing for a couple of Melbourne publications. I thought I was done with performance. I did journalism for maybe two years, and I then went to study Media and Communications at RMIT, doing my Honours year. I wanted to explore sexual education and female development, and I had really come into my feminism, and wanted to explore all of that. As I was doing my research year, I thought I was going to write a thesis, I thought I was going to be an academic, but it really didn’t suit me. Every time I was trying to understand complex theory, I’d have to come up with a personal anecdote for myself. I found that whenever we were doing readings in class, I was always storytelling, almost performing, and that was something really natural for me. Halfway through the year, when I should have been well into writing my thesis, my supervisor said, ‘I don’t think you’re writing a thesis anymore. I think you’re writing a play. I think you should switch your research and do project-based research, you need to write your story.’ So I came back to creating theatre, unexpectedly.
ASL: Tell us about your upcoming Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Glory Whole.
BT: When I wrote Glory Whole, I didn’t really understand the wider significance of it. It was more cathartic for me, more of a self-exploration, because it’s very much my story. But the more I began to share it the more I began to see other women coming forward and saying, ‘I can relate to this, this resonates so much with me’, or ‘I can’t believe you just said that, I’ve been thinking that!’ Glory Whole is my coming of womanhood, where I explore awkward first times, like first periods, first crushes….I guess the initial inspiration for the whole shows was when I first came into contact with Sophia Wallace’s ‘Cliteracy’ project. Wallace’s work spans a lot of different projects, but one is ‘100 Natural Laws’. ‘100 Natural Laws’ is basically a wall that has 100 different facts about the clitoris. When I saw Wallace’s work, I was finding out all these things for the first time, at age twenty-five, so I thought, ‘Something’s amiss in my sexual education. Why haven’t we been given the vocabulary to talk about our bodies?’ I really wanted to explore that and write about that, how I learnt about my body, and how I wish I had learnt about my body, or the conversations that I wish that I had around my body, and my ‘growhood’: how we grow up, how we learn about things, the conversations that we have with our parents, the conversations that we have with our friends. Glory Whole is very much a story from early childhood till now, about me navigating myself and my sexuality.
ASL: What is your experience working with the deaf community and Auslan interpreters?
BT: My first experience working with interpreters or deaf actors was in 2011, in Filling the Silence [Ilana Gelbart’s Honours performance project, which featured a deaf and hearing cast]. I think that really opened my eyes up to accessibility, we’re not really aware of it until we come in to contact with it. Melbourne Fringe Festival really push for accessibility, and because I’ve had experience in that area that was something that was important to me. I want to do as much as I can to make this show accessible, and if I can provide at least one night where a wider community can enjoy it without any limitations, then that’s great. It also adds a whole new element to the show, I just love the expression of Auslan. In my experience of working with deaf people, they can sum up something that I need 100 words to say in just a small sign. I think for my audience to see that, especially considering Glory Whole is quite dialogue-heavy, will be really special.
As well as that, my show is meant to be inclusive, it’s meant to make people feel comfortable, and I want to open that up to as many people as possible. The more I learnt about my feminism, the more I could identify what kind of feminist I am, and intersectionality and inclusion is so important. I’m not ignorant to the fact that I’m a white, cisgendered female, so the more I can make everyone welcome to my story, though I can’t speak for everyone, the better.
I think a lot of girls out there can identify with my story, perhaps with the only difference between them and I being that I’m hearing. Why shouldn’t a deaf audience have access to a story like this, if it has the ability to resonate with them and encourage them to share a story that’s similar. As different as we all are, we have shared experiences, but we all have different perspectives on it. As much as I can’t speak for all women, I think that people will find elements of this story that they can relate to.
ASL: What would you say to encourage other independent theatre makers to provide access to their performance for the deaf community?
BT: Just, ‘Why not?’ If you have the ability to, and everybody does, just do it, because you’re opening up your audience, and you’re allowing more people to see your show or see your work. What’s better than that?