Backstage

Associate Saturdays: Bronwen Coleman & Voldemort

Every Spotlight week, we’ll be chatting to the Theatre Works associate artist that has been seconded to the production. This week, we’re getting to know Bronwen Coleman, who was attached to “Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody”, presented by Salty Theatre!

Who are you?

I’m a theatre maker, mum and Lhasa Apso enthusiast.

What is your primary artistic practice?

I’m a director, actor and teacher, and the Artistic Director of the Anthropocene Play Company. I’m really interested in telling stories that ask the audience a difficult question – particularly around navigating THIS moment in history. My approach comprises engaging rehearsal techniques developed in the tradition of the Actors Studio New York – where I trained, and in many ways my artistic home – designed to bring the actor both into the present moment in performance and deeply invested in the given circumstances of the play. I’m interested in this idea that the actor giving something that we recognize as a truthful performance gives the audience an opportunity to “live through” the imaginary circumstances themselves – a kind of profound empathy – a way to broaden our lived experience.

The word “anthropocene” is often used by geologists and climate scientists to describe our current geological age – from “anthro” meaning human, and “cene” meaning new. The “anthropocene” is this time that we’re in in which humans are having the most impact in history on the natural world. This idea to me suggests responsibility – that part of having an awareness of our impact is in making a thoughtful response. I very much feel my own responsibility as a storyteller. How am I using my voice?

what was your role on the production?I was working with SL and Ash as a kind of assistant director. The show’s rehearsal process was a marvel of efficiency, so as SL blocked and and choreographed the show I would work with actors separately on certain aspects of their performances – looking at things like Laban and physicality or status work. It was extremely fun to play around with Voldemort’s Laban “effort” or the status shifts in Dumbledore as he tries to manage his sassy class!

What was your role on the ‘Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody’?

I was working with SL and Ash as a kind of assistant director. The show’s rehearsal process was a marvel of efficiency, so as SL blocked and and choreographed the show I would work with actors separately on certain aspects of their performances – looking at things like Laban and physicality or status work. It was extremely fun to play around with Voldemort’s Laban “effort” or the status shifts in Dumbledore as he tries to manage his sassy class!

What were you getting out of it?

Ash and SL are developing this fantastic model to create independent theatre with a high production value. It’s been terrific to be able to chat with Ash about things like her budgeting strategy and marketing timeline. SL and Ash are such smart business people – and they’re interested in both creating a self-sustaining theatre company, and really looking after the artists they work with. It’s wonderful (and rare!) to get this kind of insight into the workings of another theatre company.

What have you been working on personally?

Right now I’m working closely with playwright Daniel Nellor on his new play “Renunciation”. It’s a really exciting script that explores the Socratic idea that it’s better to be harmed than harm, set against the backdrop of a series of terror attacks in Australia. I’m using the medium of choice right now (Zoom!) to facilitate developmental readings – with a view to actually mounting the play when we’re able to do so. I’m also attached as director to a new production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play “Rabbit Hole” with Micro Teatro. We were originally scheduled to go up at the Lawler in July of this year – and (like so many) are in the process of rescheduling.

What kind of projects are you interested in doing in the future?

As far as my own company, I’m really interested in this idea that the stories well tell must add something to the conversation. Projects that are at the day-dream stage include a verbatim play about the bush fire disaster earlier this year. My husband, son and I were visiting family near Ulladulla in Shoalhaven over Christmas – and the scenes were incredibly disturbing. But making sense of the different narratives many of us hold about the fires’ cause – was equally as disturbing. It was profoundly strange time to feel that what I took to be fact about the cause of the fires might absolutely not be taken as fact my neighbor – and the stakes feel incredibly high. This idea of “fake news” and it’s consequences. As an artist, I ask myself: how can I most powerfully participate in democracy?

– BC

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