Iopu Auva’a

Entertainer Iopu Auva’a joined me for a Coffee Break to chat about his current role in Stage Art’s production of Memphis The Musical, studying in Ballarat and his career to date.

You’re a cast member in “Memphis The Musical” which is currently being staged at Chapel off Chapel in Melbourne’s until 28 October. Can you tell me a bit about the show?
Memphis is about a white radio DJ, Huey Calhoun who wants to change the world and a black club singer, Felicia Farrell who is ready for her big break. The story transports you back to Memphis in the 1950’s, when Rock & Roll was about to take over the world, when people were screaming for social progress and when falling in forbidden love was not just frowned upon, it was a crime.

What character do you play in ““Memphis The Musical” and how would you describe your character?
I play Delray Farrell who is the older brother of Felicia. He’s definitely the protective older brother figure especially when Felicia falls in love with Huey as it was a crime back then.

Memphis01Can you tell me who are the other performers involved the production?
James Elmer plays Huey Calhoun, Elandrah Eramiha-Feo as Felicia Farrell, Mandi Lodge as Gladys, Nik Murillo as Bobby and Isaac Lindley as Gator. We have an amazing ensemble of actors consisting of Lucas Biondo, Jason Yang-Westland, Wem Etuknwa, Lachlan Nash, Callum Warrender, Tanisha Buhanec, Agnes Fifita, Tsungirai Wachenuka, Bianca Bruce, Laura Greenhalgh, Stephanie Marion Wood, and Vidya Makan.

Has this role bought you any challenges as an actor?
Definitely the intensity of the role requires a lot of strength and commanding presence has been a challenge. I’m normally used to the laid back nature of characters I’ve played in the past so it’s good to showcase another side.

Did you enjoy studying at Federation University Arts Academy in Ballarat?
I had the best time studying in Ballarat. It’s not for everyone because it’s rural and away from home but I guess that’s the reason I enjoyed it so much. Being away from home gave me the independence to grow into my own as a person and as an actor.
The course itself was eye opening to the foundation an actor should have to enter the industry with.

What made you decide you want to study music theatre?
I actually studied the Acting course. Doing music theatre was definitely on the checklist when I graduated and I’m glad I’ve been able to check it off 4 times with StageArt. I’ve always had a keen eye for performing since my childhood. Being Samoan our culture is all about singing and dancing and it wasn’t until high school that I wanted to pursue it professionally.

Are there any actors who you’re influenced by?
I’ve always looked up to Sam Rockwell and the roles he chooses. They’re not always the same and I love that about an actor. And then the great Viola Davis. I’m a big fan of her work and especially the way she’s an advocate for diversity within the industry not only for actors but those who work behind the scenes and the equal opportunities they should have.

Memphis03This show is produced by StageArt? Are you able to tell me a bit more about this company?
I cannot thank StageArt enough for giving me the opportunities to tell amazing stories on stage. They gave me my first gig after graduating from Fed Uni and 4 years on, I’m very lucky to continue working with them. Not only are the creative team amazing to work with but as an actor of colour who already struggles to find roles within the industry, StageArt pride themselves on colour blind casting giving equal opportunity to everyone who auditions for their productions.

You’ve previously worked with StageArt in “The Color Purple” and “Dreamgirls” what were roles in these productions?
In The Color Purple, I played the role of Harpo who in the film is the husband of Sofia played by Oprah. And I was in the ensemble for Dreamgirls.

You’ve starred in the movie “Henry Haus”.  Are you able to tell me more about this film?
Henry Haus is a webseries produced, written and directed by one of my best friends, also a Fed Uni alumni. As it’s hard to find work within the industry, it’s great to make your own. The series is about a group of friends in their twenties who are also housemates and the first world problems they face in their everyday life. Sounds boring but I’m bias and encourage you to watch it.

Can you tell me about your involvement in the show “Screws, Nuts & Blokes”?
This show was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival produced and directed by Fed Uni graduates Samantha Wojcik and Sarah Spaven. They contacted me to be a part of their production playing a hoarder and exploring the notion of hoarding not only in physical belongings but feelings and emotions we continue to delve in from the past.

Do you have any hobbies?
Definitely eating…

What is your favourite food?
My go to is a great chicken parma.

Do you have a favourite movie?
Not only because Viola Davis is in it but the story is quite touching – The Help.

What is your idea of a good holiday?
I’m more of a stay at home kind of person binge watching my favourite tv series so anywhere that I can do that with the beach just outside my door.

Memphis02What is the last album you listened to?
Adele’s album – 25. It came out back in 2015 but I still listen to it continuously.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you take with you?
Any device to watch Netflix on.

Is there anything which you don’t leave home without?
My phone. I know, how millennial of me.

What’s next for Iopu Auva’a?
Currently writing a short film. I have no end date for it. Rather perfect the script before getting it up and running. I’d love to write a cabaret one day because I have a fear of singing in general and singing alone on stage for a period of time is much scarier for me – the irony because I’m doing a musical. And just auditioning for more gigs. I plan to make the move to Vancouver this time next year to check out the scene on that side of the world. There’s only so much work here in Australia for an actor of colour.

Iopu Auva’a is currently performing in Stage Art’s production of Memphis The Musical which is being staged at Chapel off Chapel until 28 October. For further information about StageArt Australia, visit the website here.

Images supplied. Photos by Jayde Justin.

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Daisy Pulls It Off

Ballarat National Theatre‘s third production for the 2017 season is Daisy Pulls It Off.  It will staged at the Courthouse Theatre from 30 September until 7 October.

daisy014.jpgWritten by Denise Deegan in the style of old school girl annuals that I remember reading while growing up. The stories were always full of adventures.

Set in the 1920’s , Daisy Meredith is a scholarship girl at Grangewood School For Young Ladies boarding school.  She is forced to face and overcome prejudice and pranks from the wealthier girls.  Daisy and her best friend Trixie Martin search for missing treasure which could save the school. Daisy prevails false accusations, save the life of her enemies and discovered the mysterious stranger seen around the school grounds could be her long-lost father.

Daisy Pulls It Off is directed Mary-Rose McLaren.  Starring Alexander Meerbach,  Liana Skewes, Liz Hardiman, Audrey Price, Olivia French, Zoe James, Mika Wallace, Rachael Shelton,  Janelle Johnson, Linda Ogier, Lesley Hale, Janette Baxter, Graham Maxwell, Michael Zala and pianist Tim Webby.

Daisy02If you haven’t attended a performance of Ballarat National Theatre, it might be time to support this local theatre company which have been entertaining the people of Ballarat and district since 1938.

Don’t miss this limited season of performances which be staged at 8.00pm on 4 to 6 October and matinee will take place on 7 October.

 

 

 

Keith Brockett

Actor Keith Brockett from The Kin Collective joined me for a Coffee Break to chat about his show Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man).

You’re currently performing in which is currently being staged as part of the Melbourne Fringe until 29 September. Are you able to tell me more about the show?
Title and Deed explores the questions that many of us have asked ourselves many times: How do I fit into this world? Where is my place, and where do I belong in this thing called Life? It is about a slightly foreign man hoping to make himself comfortable with his audience in these unfamiliar surroundings.

Do you find the role challenging as Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man) is a one-man show?
Absolutely. When you perform on stage with others, you can work off the responses and reactions of the other actor, which helps to shape your own work and open your mind to other ideas or interpretations you hadn’t thought of before, growing the work as it evolves with each performance. It can feel quite lonely to work on stage by yourself. The audience is there, of course, and those interactions become much more pronounced and significant, though you cannot imagine how far away it can feel sometimes. The answer is far.

Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man) is a play written by Will Eno. Are you a fan of his work?
I am. I was lucky enough to see “The Realistic Joneses” when it was playing on Broadway, and I think almost every male actor under 40 is familiar with Will’s 2004 play Thom Pain (based on nothing), given its popularity as a monologue piece! In all his works, Will deliberately chooses not to shy away from the uncomfortable realities of life, and I like that immensely. As an audience, I feel it heightens the stakes and empathy we feel for these characters as they try to muddle their way through these terribly bad situations.

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Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man) is produced by the KIN Collective can you tell me more details about the company?
The KIN Collective was founded in 2009 by a group of like-minded actors following a masterclass with American acting coach Larry Moss. Starting out initially as a support group of sorts (the Industry can be a hard place to survive on your own) we then started working on plays together and then writing our own pieces. Larry taught us the importance of The Word and to respect the writing, and provoke the question: “What does it mean to be human?”, something that has influenced us in our choice of projects.

Keith, can you tell me more about your training at the National Theatre and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts?
I started my training at the National Theatre Drama School back in 2002, and it gave me the strong foundations on which I now apply myself to my career. RADA came later in 2009. I think many people don’t realise that acting is more about just performing scripts and taking on characters. All the attention and detail that goes into script and character analysis, the discovery of a character’s physicality, finding intention and meaning in what you say and why you say it, as well as learning to take care of your voice and body, managing your time and energy – all these were invaluable lessons I learnt from my time at drama school.

Congratulations on being awarded Best Actor for your performance in Death by 1000 Cuts. Can you able to tell me about this?
This was quite a while back, for the 2007 Short + Sweet Festival. I was about 3 years into my career, and it was a wonderful acknowledgement at the time, a little pat on the back that helped me to build my self-confidence as an actor. It’s very easy to lose faith in your own abilities as an actor, as you are constantly and critically judged on all fronts: talent, appearance, attitude, personality. I think it’s always important to remind yourself of your self-worth, be it an affirmation in the mirror, or an impromptu getaway to treat yourself.

Keith02Can you tell me more about your role in the ABC television series “The Librarians”?
That was my first TV series! I played Ky, one of the librarians at the Middleton Interactive Learning Centre. It was a great place to start, and I learnt so much on set from the cast as well as the crew. You don’t appreciate how many people it takes to make a film or a television show. You know those end credits that everyone walks out on? Every single person made a significant contribution to what you just witnessed. When I saw how hard everyone worked, it just reminded me to pick up my own game and pull my own weight.

Can you tell me some other television shows you’ve been in?
I recently completed work on “7 Types of Ambiguity, as well as “Ronny Chieng: International Student”, both for ABC.

As an Australian actor you have to be diverse, do you have a preference between theatre or television?
I can’t choose. Don’t make me choose!

Do you have any hobbies?
I’ve been doing a lot of gardening recently. I think the peaceful quiet of tending to another living thing is doing wonders for my stress levels. Otherwise, it’s long walks with my dog, Charlie.

What is your favourite food?
I love the detailed simplicity of Japanese cuisine.

Keith03.jpgDo you have a favourite movie?
The Fifth Element.

What is your idea of a good holiday?
Lying on a warm and sunny beach in the Tropics somewhere.

What is the last album you listened to?
I leave the radio on in the background most of the time. But my last Podcast was My Date Wrote a Porno.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you take with you?
A hammock.

Is there anything which you don’t you leave home without?

My house keys.

What’s next for Keith Brockett?
Summer!

Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man) is currently being performed Melbourne Fringe until 29 September. For further information about The Kin Collective, click here.

Productions images supplied by The Kin Collective.

Bakersfield Mist

Well-known performers John Woods and Julie Nihill are reuniting in the comedic tale of Bakersfield Mist. It will be staged for five shows at Geelong Performing Arts Centre from 16 to 19 July and for one night only at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat on 23 July, 2017.

Bakersfield MistDirected by Lucy Freeman, it’s based on a true story written by award-winning American playwright and director Stephen Sachs. Bakersfield Mist is produced by Tasmanian Theatre Company and Straightjacket Productions.

Maude (Nihill) is an unemployed bartender living in a trailer park, she buys a painting for a few dollars at a thrift shop and despite almost trashing it, she’s convinced its a lost masterpiece by Jackson Pollock worth millions.

When art expert Lionel Percy (Woods) flies over from New York to authenticate the painting, he has no idea what he’s about to discover. You’ll be asking questions about what makes art and people truly authentic.

It will great to see John Woods and Julie Nihill star together in Bakersfield Mist as they starred together in the award-winning television series Blue Heelers from it’s premiere in 1993 to the finale in 2006.

Rhonda Burchmore

Entertainer Rhonda Burchmore OAM joined me for a Coffee Break to chat about her upcoming show Abba-solutely Fabulous.

You’ll be travelling regional Australia performing Abba-solutely Fabulous”. Can you give me a brief overview of the show? 
It’s basically about two die hard ABBA fans growing up on opposite sides of Australia in the seventies and never getting to the big Abba concert 40 years ago so we recreate all that magic on stage – it’s a hilarious romp with 20 Abba songs thrown in.

How did you meet your co-performer Lara Mulcahy?
We met when we auditioned for the original Mamma Mia 16 years ago and remained best friends ever since.

Rhonda 02

Do you have a favourite song which you like to perform from “Abba-solutely Fabulous”?
Thankyou for the music – I dedicate it to my beautiful mother Yvonne whom I recently lost.

Any there any plans to record a CD of the show?
Not at this stage – but you never know.

Can people come and met you after “Abba-solutely Fabulous”?
Yes, Lara and I go out front and do a little meet and greet and we have some Fabulous Merchandise including our own Ab Fab t-towel!

The first Melbourne show of Abba-solutely Fabulous” was sell-out.  Will it be making a comeback?
Yes we are booked to return to Crown on February 24 2018.

Rhonda,did you enjoy performing “Vinyl Viagra” at the 2014 Ballarat Cabaret?
I LOVED IT ! I adored the theatre and loved the audience.

Your breakthrough role was in the production of “Sugar Babies” in Australia.  You reprised the role on London’s West End.  What was it like working with the late Mickey Rooney?
He was a genius but very tricky! You never knew what mood he was going to be in show after show. Ann Miller his legendary co star was magnificent!

Can you tell about the role which was created especially for you in “Hot Shoe Shuffle?
David Atkins is as short as I am tall and we adore each other and wanted to work with each other so he wrote this crazy script for me about being his long lost twin sister along with 7 fabulous tapdancing brothers.

Rhonda and Lara AbFab

As you’ve been involved with the entertainment industry for many years.  Can you name a few of your highlights?
Mamma Mia, The Drowny Chaperone with Geoffrey Rush, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Into The Woods etc etc.

Rhonda, you appeared in a few episodes of the television show “Lovechild”. Can you tell us about your role?
I played the owner of the Bluemoon nightclub who also got to sing a few jazzy tunes there.

A few years ago I saw on the television show “Talking Heads”; you have a collection of Barbie dolls.  Are still collecting them?  Do you have a favourite one?
Yes I have 400 Barbie dolls. My fave is my own Rhonda Mamma Mia super trouper doll.

During 2010, you published an autobiography on your life called “Legs 11”. Can you give me an overview of how this came about?
The publishers got in touch with me and asked me to write my story which went very well. They have recently asked if I would write another one in 2018.

Congratulations on being named a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the Arts and Community.  Was it great to get recognised for your work?
Yes very proud indeed.

Does your daughter Lexie have an interest in show business?
She is a journalist and current writer news for Channel 9.

Rhonda01Do you have any hobbies?
Fishing, gardening.

What is your favourite food?
Seafood.

Do you have a favourite movie?
Jaws.

What is your idea of a good holiday?
Beach, long walks, no makeup, sun, French champagne.

What is the last album you listened to?
Abba arrival.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you take with you?
Fishing rod, French champagne.

Is there anything which you don’t you leave home without?
Phone.

What’s next for Rhonda Burchmore?
ABBA-solutely FABULOUS is currently booked well into 2018 plus a couple of other projects which I can’t reveal yet – stay tuned.

ABBA-solutely Fabulous will be performed at Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts on 12 August, Geelong Performing Arts Centre on 25 August and Bendigo’s The Capital Theatre on 26 August. For further information about the show, visit Rhonda’s website here.

Images kindly supplied by Rhonda Burchmore.

Kaarin Fairfax

Kaarin Fairfax is an Australian actress, director and musician. She joined me for a Coffee Break to chat about her current show Next Fall which is currently being staged  at Chapel off Chapel until 30 July, 2017.

What role do you play and can tell me a bit about your character?
Arlene is the mom to Luke, the central story character. She is from Tallahassee in Florida and has a bit of a wild and unruly past.

Who are the cast members of “Next Fall”?
Darrin Redgate, Mark Davis, Sharon Davis, Paul Robertson and James Biasetto. It is one of the strongest companies I have worked with.

NextFall_CastOutdoorWhat would you like audiences to take away for the play “Next Fall”?
If there is an opportunity to question and discard old beliefs and ways of thinking and start to see people as individual and wonderful- I’d love that!

Can you tell me why you established The Little Theatre Company in Frankston?
My children designed the model for a school project and I thought it was a great idea to follow it through…It enabled me and the team to provide young individuals on the Mornington Peninsula an opportunity to work with professionals in the entertainment industry. I have lots of great artist friends and wanted to be able to create a mentorship situation, and provide a fun experience for all of us.

The Little Theatre Company is now in Melbourne with a new home to be announced very soon!

Kaarin, did you enjoy starring and co-directing the film StalkHer?
I loved it. What a gift. I was part of the writing process with Kris Maric then working closely with John Jarrat throughout was just blissful. I was the happiest I could be turning up on set to film every day.

Are you are able to tell me more about your music career?
Look the career part of that is a funny one. I am asked constantly to sing as the character I am playing. In the last 3 films I have sung songs….I adore it!

Fellow actor Kerry Armstrong and yourself are involved in training at 16th Street Actors Studio. Are you able to tell me more about this?
Kerry was my teacher for a couple of terms. It was great to get back in the room and hone my acting skills. There is nothing like doing it live every night in front of an audience, that will get ya blood pumping and your heart racing.

Kaarin Fairfax03What are some of your highlights of your career so far?
I have so many projects I have been in that I adore. I cannot list them for fear of running out of space. I have been, and continue to be, challenged and thrilled by everything I do. I feel grateful and blessed to be able to spend my days doing what I deeply love.

As an Australian actor you have to be diverse, do you have a preference between directing or performing?
Each of these skills is very different but they both inform the other and help to have a cohesive understanding of the craft and artistry of creating stories.
I love them both and for me it depends on the project as to which way I will go as an actor or a director.

Do you have any hobbies?
Walking, reading, seeing music, theatre and film. I collect rocks and crystals.

What is your favourite food?
I eat pretty healthily..today. I will say avocado with egg. Yum!

Do you have a favourite movie?
Again, different movies at different times of my life create an impact. I love movies that stretch my imagination and thinking.

Kaarin02

What is your idea of a good holiday?
Beach or bush or something spiritual!

What is the last album you listened to?
My daughter Memphis has an outfit called Saatsuma, I got a chance to listen to a pre release.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you take with you?
Coconut oil…or maybe I could make it there!

Is there anything which you don’t you leave home without?
My keys.

What’s next for Kaarin Fairfax?
I have a few wonderfully written short films to act in over the next few months 3 plays and I am off to a writing retreat in Bali so watch out I have a few big projects on the go.

Kaarin Fairfax is performing in Next Fall at the Chapel off Chapel until 30 July. 

Merrily We Roll Along

Having previously a few productions from Watch This, I was pleased to know this year’s show is Merrily We Roll Along because I don’t really know much about this musical.  I do know one thing, Watch This are the first Australia theatre company dedicated to performing the works of composer Stephen Sonheim.  Merrily We Roll Along is currently being staged at the Southbank Theatre in Melbourne until 15 July, 2017.

WatchThis ProductionsMerrily We Roll Along is a musical with a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. Based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart in 1934.

The story revolves around Franklin Shepard who was a talented composer of Broadway musicals, but since since abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a producer of Hollywood movies. It’s set from 1957 to 1976.

It beings at the height of Franklin’s fame in 1976 and move backwards and to show important moments in his life which made him the man he is.

Starring Lyall Brooks, Nicole Melloy, Nelson Gardner, Adrian Barila, Cristina D’Agostino, Mark Doggett, Keane Fletcher, Laura Greenhalgh, Nicholas Kong, Vidya Makan, Ana Mitsikas, John Reed, Sophie Weiss. Directed by Sara Grenfell and with musical direction by Cameron Thomas.

For further information regarding Merrily We Roll Along and Watch This; visit the website here.