Dancing Doesn't Count at Sydney Fringe Festival
Gemma is a graduate of UNSW and Sydney Theatre School, where she graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts (Acting). After studying at a tertiary level for 7 years she decided to take on a new challenge; Dancing Doesn't Count! This is the first play she has written and her first time producing. Rosie spoke with Gemma about her work and the importance of queer representation on the stage.
Dancing Doesn't Count is a new work coming to Sydney Fringe Festival, so we've got no idea what kind of show we're walking into. Can you tell me a little bit about the play, and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks for walking in! Dancing Doesn't Count follows the relationship of two girls who maybe were never right for each other in the first place. Casey is a driven young professional and a bisexual woman, Steph is an intelligent young creative and a gay woman and they are both looking for wholehearted acceptance. Casey's best friend and co-worker Alex is a growing point of friction for the pair. As for inspiration, I was inspired by people around me. So many people settle for situations that aren't right for them because it's easier to stay, even though in the long run it's better for them to leave. This is applicable to relationships, friendships, jobs; all sorts of situations.
What benefits do you think having bisexual representation on stage has for the LGBT+ community? How do you think as artists we can go about representing bisexuals realistically on stage?
Representation is a huge step towards acceptance and it's importance cannot be overstated. By having representation on stage bisexual people can more easily not only accept themselves but take pride in their identity. It further fills out the LGBT+ profile to the rest of society; it is such a mulch-faceted community and if we leave any of us out then that group just ends up being doubly excluded. Sadly, there is an issue of bi-phobia within the queer community built on misunderstanding or ignorance. All throughout society people try to tell you who you are; if you're a bisexual man in a homosexual relationship then you're gay, if you're a feminine bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship you don't really belong. Artists can start representing bisexual people realistically by seeing them as people; wholly realised, three dimensional people. As with any marginalised group, the best way to realistically represent them is to ask questions, not make assumptions.
Is this the first play you've written? What made you jump to the role of writer?
This is the first play I've written! The process of this show started toward the end of last year. I was finishing my final year at Sydney Theatre School and looking ahead at the industry. It's tough out there and I figure the best way to get work is to make it so I decided to put a show on as part of Sydney Fringe.
How does your approach as an actor change when working on a text you’ve written yourself, compared with texts written by other playwrights? Does your development process as an actor change?
It has been a unique experience for me. I've been in devised performances where the piece was generated from within the group of performers but I've never been the sole script 'expert'. My understanding of the script starting out was quite deep which was helped get rehearsals off to a quick start, yet I still wanted to have a very open approach to the script. Having other people read it and ask questions and share their interpretations was such an enriching experience, it opened my own view of the text. It's harder to ask questions of your own work, so in that way my acting process changed a lot.
What do you intend to achieve through Dancing Doesn't Count?
Fame and fortune, obviously! What I really want to do with this show is to reach out to people. As an actor I believe we are storytellers, and sometimes that is just flat out entertaining, sometimes it's a confrontation, sometimes an escape, sometimes a lecture. As long as the audience ends up in a different place than where they were when they started I'll be over the moon. If people can recognise themselves in these characters, open their hearts to their experience or grow in some small way; it will be a raging success.
If you could describe this show in only three words, how would you describe it?
Full of heart.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Sleep No More
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Dream role in any show to perform?
Iago from Othello
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
Assisting and acting in the webseries Thirty! Season One on YouTube now!
Dancing Doesn't Count is showing from September 11 to September 15, 7pm at Erskineville Town Hall (104 Erskineville Road, Erskineville). You can get your tickets here.
Gemma Clinch: writer, producer, actor