I am Stéphanie Ghajar. I am a director and dramaturge for film and theatre, and since 2019, for livestream shows too. I have worked both behind the scenes and centerstage, whether performing or with creatives and crew on film sets, and for numerous theatres and venues in Australia and internationally.
Tell us about your artistic origins
Professionally, I started out as an actor in Lebanon, performing Chekov and Issam Mahfouz plays, while completing my media studies. Upon moving to Australia, I began looking into expanding my practice by enrolling in the Master of Dramaturgy course at the Victorian College of the Arts. That year really included both theatre and film as part of my practice, mainly dramaturging new work, before moving into directing new writing by emerging Australian playwrights. However, at the time, it felt like I had wandered off course into making other creatives’ works, without really being in touch with the true form of practice I wanted to be a part of. It was at that point that an opportunity knocked on my door to travel for a year to the States and I landed in New York City shortly after.
Tell us about your practice
That move to New York helped shape my practice. The flood of shows and exhibitions I was exposed to focused my taste/aesthetic and the kind of art I was interested in making and being a part of – the kind that delves into the human condition to explore the individual in deeply personal situations where the familiar motions of the everyday darken and veer towards the tragic. Working in film and theatre together has shown evident streaks of each medium seeping into the other. Recently, I have been diving deeper into the shared audience experience despite, or rather, because of where the world seems to want us to go.
What have you gained from the Associate Artists program?
I applied for the Associate Artist program in order to connect with more Melbourne-based artists and to grasp a fuller understanding of the Australian theatre landscape. What has been brought forward by this program exceeded expectation. I have been encouraged and inspired by local artists and theatre companies whose practice and artistic pathways don’t seem to have differed in their early years from mine and my fellow artists’ in the program. I have been mentored into realising ideas I might have had lying in drawers and not daring to bring forward had it not been for the program, and am now thinking realistically about developing and producing them.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently developing a new devised work called Zaffé. Also, as an Associate Artist at Theatre Works, I am assisting Iron Lung’s director, Briony Dunn, on her company’s production of Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling for 2021. Online, I am devising and performing in a livestream performance called Flight with an NYC-based multimedia theatre company, Anonymous Ensemble, as well as dramaturging and developing Mert Berdilek’s feature films The Horse Thief and Ağri.
What have you been up to during lockdown?
Other than the projects mentioned above, lockdown 1.0 was all about getting these hobbies ticked off the list: gardening, painting, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, baking, exercising. They helped me feel grounded regardless. With lockdown 2.0, being a bit more of a struggle, I managed to settle more into a rhythm of working from home and started to really focus on my career and projects at hand. Especially when everyone else involved in those projects was working to a schedule, that kept me committed to deadlines. I also moved houses mid July, so I live closer to the beach now which means it is all about long walks and resetting in the evening before I come back home and wind down to a few episodes of Schitts Creek.
What are you aspiring towards?
Big question. Especially since it has two different threads intertwining in my head right now between dramaturging films and devising my own work, but I know what combines them both and that is work I want to make and am passionate about, with the right collaborators. I am proud to be already heading in that direction. Also I want to take these theatrical pieces and films anywhere possible, share them far and wide.
For more about Stéphanie, check out her website here: www.stephanieghajar.com