In Conversation: the team behind Shivered

The Fringe Festival is full of up-and-coming producers standing up alongside experienced professionals. As part of our exploration of the wonderful experiences on offer, Tulpa’s own Simone Corletto sat down with star sibling co-creators Dana and Matthew Cropley of Cropley Productions to discuss their latest production.

 

So, tell us about your new play, Shivered:

Matt: It’s a play about a young person, in year 12, on the cusp of trying to decide which life path to take in their life. I think it’s pretty universal theme for a lot of young people, especially artistic young people, wondering if they should pursue their passion or go for a more stable career or something in between. This is something our younger brother, who stars in the play, is struggling with that himself as a year 12 student; he wants to be an actor and take it seriously but he doesn’t know if that’s a realistic thing, and he’s been struggling with that. And we wanted to explore this idea in a way that still entertaining.

Dana: And as people who are putting on a play in the Fringe, it’s something we’ve personally experienced as well. Matthew went the more creative path, studying film-making and now doing writing, and I’m doing Psychology, so I went the more stable career path, but I’m trying to balance doing acting and Fringe stuff with that, so it’s definitely still a very relevant issue for us so hopefully we can portray it very realistically.

Matt: It’s easy to agonise over what to do with your life in any respect, and to wonder if you made the right decision or if you screwed everything up, and I think what we’re trying to do is explore the possibility without really offering a straight answer, we’re just opening the conversation a bit.  But also it’s an entertaining play about a stalker, so you know, it’s thrilling and suspenseful, and it’s still an entertaining story in and of itself.

 

Considering your backgrounds aren’t strictly theatre based, what made you decide to use a play to explore these ideas?

Dana: Our whole family has always enjoyed acting and have done it as a hobby since we were little kids. When I was in year 12 we performed Blackrock by Nick Enwright as our year 12 play, and everyone in the cast really wanted to do it again, so we were decided to perform it in the Fringe. I ended up directing that show and I got Matthew and our brother Daniel to be in it, and we really enjoyed it. We’d developed a relationship with Tandanya Theatre, where we performed that show, and so we decided to put on another show the next year. I asked Matt to write a script, and that became Linger, which we performed last year. Now we’re really just in the pattern of doing one every year and we really enjoy it so we just want to keep it going for as long as we can.

Matt: I think, in terms of why a play, there’s the blend of psychology and the arts. Linger was about teenage depression and suicide and looking at that in a realistic way, which we were able to do with Dana and her psychology studies, having learned a lot about that which I think gave us some gravitas behind the story. I think this is a similar thing in that it’s issues pertaining to the mental health of young people which we can look at with my artistic background and Dana’s psychology background, in a well-rounded way. Also through my perspective, I did a film degree and worked as corporate filmmaker for a while, and have come into doing more writing things and I’ve always done acting. A play is a good blend of that literary and psychology, so they’re useful skills.

 

After your first original play, Linger, last year, is there anything you learned about that experience which you’ve taken on board this time?

Dana: Definitely. We really have a good idea of how to direct and produce now, and we have taken a lot of feedback from reviews last year and we tried to include that this year. I think even partially, subconsciously, we got a lot of praise for presenting these ideas in a realistic way, so this year we placed more emphasis on trying to realistically connect with people this indecision, and it’s a lot easier to do that because we are that age, and so it’s not like we’re older people trying assume this is how young people feel, we can just say how we feel and how it applies to everyone.

Matt: For me, with my film background, Linger last year it was kind of written, staged in a more filmic way, and this year I’ve really learned what works best on stage compared to film, and I think that the stagecraft and the script and the directorial stuff has really been fine-tuned.

 

Is this play aimed at younger audiences or will older people get something out of it as well?

Dana: We figure that everyone in their life, no matter what career you go into, has experienced having to make a choice about what path to take, so it’s applicable to young people currently going through that, but also older audiences will be able to relate to it because they may have already gone through it at some point. Plus, it’s just a thrilling play in and of itself.

Matt: And we tried to show a young person who is agonising over what choices to make, and an older person who has made those choices, agonising over whether they were the right ones, so we do cover it from both perspectives. And even if you have no connections to the themes, the story could be taken at face value.

 

How long has taken to develop this play?

Matt: This story and these themes are something I’ve thought about for a long time and wanted to express in some way, but the expression of it in this play started last year as soon as Linger wrapped up. We got together and brainstormed what to do next. And this has gone through quite a few drafts of this play, which we started basically since the last show, and we started rehearsals in August. It’s been quite an intensive script development period, with about a year in actual development.

 

What are some of the challenges you found putting this show together?

Dana: I found that in terms of actually putting on the play, funding is always a big issue. This is obviously a very expensive process to do. Getting sponsors like that is always hopeful – I would say that’s the main challenge. It’s hard work to reach out to the media and the venue and get props and stuff, but if you just do it you’ll get it done. You have to force yourself to do it.

Matt: I think with this one it’s – the struggle I found creatively is working this sort of theme and story without sounding really preachy or didactic. I suppose, and just finding where the actual conflict is. Wanting to tell this story about choosing what to do in your life and with a skilled approach and it’s been a struggle finding the right way to tell that story so that its still entertaining and realistic. It’s been an interesting drill down into those layers and layers of story. The last play I think the story was quite obviously there and this one was more of a creative struggle, but I think this play is a lot better. Also the last play we had a substantially larger cast and it was a bigger undertaking but this time we’ve minimised the cast and various other things, having less stuff but being higher quality.

 

Why did you decide launch your play here at the Fringe?

Matt: The Fringe is great as there’s no real gatekeepers and if you can put on a play, you are allowed to. You’re judged on the quality of your work rather than who you are and what you’ve done, so for young people trying to break into the industry it’s the perfect opportunity to do that. And I think that’s especially great for the sort of message we’re trying to explore, finding the artistic life path.

Dana: Also, with the fringe, basically all of Adelaide wants to get involved and see stuff compared to just a random time of year putting on a play yourself where you don’t get the sort of advertising the Fringe provides or a guaranteed audience to plug your show to, so that comes in handy.

 

Are you looking to tour the show elsewhere?

Matt: I think that’s something we’d love to do. We’ve explored that idea with the last play but it didn’t really pan out. But depending on the response with this one, it’s definitely something we’d look into seriously.

Dana: I think it would definitely be easier with a smaller cast, as there’s five of us, so in terms of scheduling and stuff to be able to take it elsewhere, this year would be much more viable than last year.

 

Any advice for budding scriptwriters wanting to get their start with the Fringe?

Matt: It’s easy to be paralysed by self-doubt, wondering if you’re going to be able to do it properly, but just write the script, get some people together and make something. Especially with the Fringe, you can just sign up and do it. Don’t wait for someone else to give you the opportunity; just make your own opportunity and do something.

Dana: And that’s really why we wanted to start doing shows with the Fringe. Adelaide’s not really a hub of the acting world so if we can just create those roles for ourselves and create something we know can do every year, then why not do that? It’s just such a good opportunity. And for advice, I’d say in terms of actually putting on the show, it can seem very daunting, with so many different steps to put on a Fringe show, and it’s a lot of work, but if you just make yourself do the work and get everything done in time then it’s not really as intimidating as it seems.

 

Shivered is being performed at Tandanya Theatre at Live from Tandanya this weekend on the 16th, 17th and 18th of February. Tickets available here.

In Conversation With: Deviant Women

 

After a successful first season of their podcast, Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth are taking to the stage to bring you the wild and wonderful stories of two historical women– Julie D’Aubigny and Madame Blavatsky. In the lead-up to their first show, Tulpa sat down with Deviant Women to talk podcasts, dressing up and what they have in store for fans this year.

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How did Deviant Women (the podcast) start out and what inspired you to start it?

LB: Both of us are doing PhDs in this kind of general area so our research interests intersect in this kind of area of Deviant women, but also issues of representations of femininity, feminist revisionism, female archetypes, monstrous women. So, we’ve talked about this for years. We’ve spent many, many hours just talking about this stuff because we both really love it. I’m a podcast fan, [Alicia is] not, she actually doesn’t listen to podcasts.

AC: It’s terrible because there’s nothing else I would do without engaging with the actual thing. I don’t write stories and not read stories… I don’t try to write novels about reading novels. And yet, I podcast, without listening to podcasts.

LB: So I was the podcast fan, and basically I listen to a lot of podcasts that are by women and have very conversational female banter about serious subject matter but very casual, conversational, funny way. Really I was like, this sounds like a conversation Alicia and I would have– we could probably do this. I think one day in Gresham place we were standing outside of a bar and I was like, ‘Do you want to do a podcast about deviant women?’ and [Alicia] was just like, ‘Alright, I’ll text you about it’, and she did. She sent me a text with a bunch of women she’d thought of and I was like, ‘Oh shit, we’re doing this– cool.’

AC: I was like, ‘I’m along for the ride, as long as I don’t have to do any of the technical stuff.’

 

What were some of the issues and setbacks you had to face in setting up the podcast in order for it to have a life of its own?

AC: Well it’s easy to start it, but then to have it take on a life of its own… that’s the hard thing.

LB: There were little things, like getting a microphone. My boyfriend is a musician and a sound engineer, so he had microphones but they weren’t the right type of microphone for recording voices. So we had to get over the initial hurdle of ‘we have to get a microphone; we need a website to host the sound files on’. We had to do a little research about what are the best podcasting hosts.

AC: How do we get on to iTunes? How do we even do that?

LB: There was just a lot of Googling and learning by figuring stuff out, but we’re learning that kind of stuff constantly. That was probably the biggest learning hurdle- what are the practical things that we need to do to launch, to have a website? Luckily, we used a lot of people that we know.

AC: Yeah, a friend of mine is an art director and she did a logo for us, which was great. Our logo is such a simple idea, but it was just so perfect. All she’s done is turn [the name] upside down. But that’s the whole point. We were really lucky with how quickly that all fell into place.

LB: India is one of my oldest friends and she’s a musician and I was like, ‘We’re thinking of doing this podcast about deviant women, do you think you could make us a theme song?’ She came back a week later [and said], ‘I’ve recorded this thing. See what you think.’ Then we had to get a fan-base, and that’s been the hurdle that continues, but also, I think is one that I find a really fun challenge.

AC: You say it was a hurdle, and it definitely has been. I mean, that is the big thing: are people listening to us? Are we just shouting into the void, or what is going on? But to be completely honest, we were absolutely blown away with how many people were listening to us. And where they were listening to us from. When we started we were like, we’ll see where this goes, but oh my god, people were listening. They were leaving reviews and they were contacting us and interacting with us on Twitter. People actually care– there are people out there who are actually interested in what we’re doing.

LB: It kind of feels like we’ve broken away from the pack in terms of the really small podcasts. We might be able to graduate into the next level. We’re hoping this year we’ll crack the next level.

AC: This podcast has really been about empowering women. But [a hard part] is actually gaining the confidence to actually say ‘Oh you know, what we’re doing is actually something of worth.’ This is the whole thing with the deviant women that we talk about– as women we constantly have this reinforcement that what we do isn’t valued as much as what other people do; as what privileged white men do.

LB: This is the biggest hurdle for both of us. I mean, I would love to have more guests and have guests who are personalities in the world that people know. We’ve not ever really approached anyone – everyone we’ve had as a guest has approached us. So this year one of our biggest goals is to overcome that hurdle of having the confidence to realise our podcast is something that people like, is legitimate, and we can approach whoever– because the worst they can say is no.

AC: As naff as it sounds: the biggest hurdle is believing in ourselves.

 

Do you think your background as PhD students – doing a lot of research, doing a lot of study- has influenced the way you approach this podcast?

LB: I mean, I always look for peer-reviewed journals. Academic texts about the women we talk about.

AC: I remember my sister once said to me ‘Do you just read the Wikipedia entries?’ and I was like, ‘No! We’re researchers!’ We may look at the Wikipedia entry, but that’s not the end in what we research. That kind of need, as academic researchers, to know that the information that we’re finding is peer reviewed, is legitimate. Sometimes the information that we find is conflicting, there are a lot of holes, there are a lot of things that we don’t know, but I think that definitely that background as PhD students and researchers feeds into how we approach researching these women.

LB: And also particularly because we want our podcast to have a focus not only on the women’s biographies, but is also thinking about the social contexts and the way that particularly patriarchal structures play into the way that the women that we highlight engage in the world.

AC: I think that really what we do with the podcast itself is: here is a really interesting story about a really interesting person– take all of our information with a grain of salt.

 

Are you doing season two of the Deviant Women podcast this year? 

AC: Yes, season two will begin on March 22nd.

LB: But there’s probably going to be a bonus episode or two before then. Some inter-seasonal specials. We have an enormous and ever-growing list of women we want to cover, so the challenge is going to be choosing which women to cover in this season and which will have to wait for next time. Honestly though, I would really like to know what our listeners want from us. We’ve had a very history-focused first season and we would like to know- is this what you like? Do you want more of this in season two? Do we throw in more mythology? More literature? What do people want to hear? Because we’re interested in all of it.

 

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Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth

What made you want to do a stage show of Deviant Women?

AC: Oh my god, do you know what it was? Lauren and I love dress-ups– if someone has a dress-up party we’re like ‘That’s the best news, when is it? Is it in three months?’ I’ll spend the next three months planning my outfit. No worries, we do love dressing up. And I remember saying to Lauren, ‘If only there was some way we could have an excuse to dress up as some of these women from history’, and then we just looked at each other and were like, ‘We should have a live show!’

So, legitimately, what drove our passion to have this live show was wanting to dress up. That is actually what sparked the idea. It’s not what’s still driving the idea– there is some substance to the shows as well, but what started up the idea was that conversation.

LB: This is not the podcast live, this is Deviant Women: the stage show. There’s a lot of podcasts that have live recordings in front of an audience, but it’s not just going to be Alicia and I sitting on two chairs with microphones telling the stories in the same way we would if we were just recording at home. It is a stage version of Deviant Women, so it’s a different product that’s come from the same place, but it’s like the podcast is one part of Deviant Women and it kind of feels like the stage shows are another element. So, we’ll see how that goes.

 

How did you go about adapting Deviant Women for the stage?

AC: To begin with we actually just thought what we’ll do is we’ll sit down and we’ll record it like we would for a normal podcast. So we did what we normally do– we both decide who will take the lead on each woman. Lauren has a wealth of specialty knowledge in Victoriana, séances, the occult, etc. So it just seemed natural that Lauren would take the lead on Blavatsky, because otherwise I would be re-researching a whole bunch of stuff she already knew. So then D’Aubigny fell to me, which I was perfectly happy with. We just went about researching them separately, doing what we would normally do for an episode, and then we basically just sat down and tried to record it in a similar sort of way that we would for a podcast. From that [we] listened back to find where the really interesting parts lay. What had dramatic appeal, what we could really do something with onstage. That’s not to say that in the stage shows we don’t alter their lives. I mean, it is a fictionalised version.

LB: Well, not a fictional version. It’s a version that based on things that have become legend. It’s more like, this is the legend and these are the stories that are told about them. We can’t verify 100% that they’re true.

AC: Yeah, so listening back to those podcasts we really picked out those moments that were the most sort of interesting, that kind of deconstructed how these women functioned in their societies as well. It is different to the podcast in the fact that we are focusing more on particular parts of their lives rather than giving the entire birth to death, but kind of focusing on the really key moments of interest in their lives.

LB: Pivotal things that make them who they are or show them as being these incredible, ridiculous characters.

AC: So we kind of picked out those moments and asked, where can we go from here? How can we make these moments performative? How can we make these moments dramatic and interesting?

LB: It’s all a work in progress. Even when we perform it, it’ll be probably still a work in progress.

AC: We’re following the chronology in these women’s lives, and there’s going to be some acting– some fabulous acting, oh my god– Oscar award-winning acting will be happening, but it’s not going to be scripted down to letter, you know? It’ll still have that free-flow feeling. And that’s the free-form style of the podcasts themselves.

LB: We have a script, but we might not follow it.

 

What do you think your audience is going to get out of these shows?

LB: I feel part of the problem we’ve had with this show is not knowing how to categorise it. We’re not quite theatre, we hope that we’re funny but we’re not stand-up comedians. We’re not just a normal event. We’re not strictly storytelling, what are we? So I hope that what audiences get is something that doesn’t fit anywhere, but is different and interesting, entertaining but also informative and maybe gets them a little bit fired up about these women and makes them want to learn a bit more about some people who are also like this, and maybe get them to tune into the podcast.

AC: Yeah, that’s true. But also, I think that it gets them to go away from it and be like, the next person they see being like, ‘Hey, did you know this woman existed? Did you know there was this outrageous woman in 17th century France who was this bisexual swords-woman, opera singer…’

LB: [D’Aubigny] took on literally packs of men at a time. She fought three or four of them at a time.

AC: [For Blavatsky] we’re more the parlour style [séance], it’ll be more like a re-creation. I don’t know that we’ll be calling up any actual spirits.

LB: We hope that’s fun.

AC: It is going to be fun but I think the thing that we really look for with these two [women] is contrasts. Obviously that’s the aesthetic we’re going for with the posters. You look at the D’Aubigny one, it’s pink, it’s flowery, it’s a kind of light hearted, flamboyant story. And then Blavatsky is taking us to that other place. It’s taking us to that dark, mysterious place. So they’re going to be very different shows, both just as entertaining as each other but in very different ways.

LB: Which is why you should see both. We hope the show is fun. We hope that it’s very casual, tongue-in-cheek and we just hope it’s a good time.

 


 

Deviant Women will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe on the 26th of February and the 14th of March. You can grab your tickets here. You can learn more about Deviant Women and their podcast on their website, or listen on iTunes. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Tulpa thanks Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth for taking the time to speak with us. Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde.