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In Conversation with Petra Glieson | The Long Game

"That this would be a piece of theatre and story making that had a voice, and a place in the ongoing issues and forums around assault, power, victim blaming, action and inaction."

Today we chat with Petra Glieson, producer and performer for the upcoming production The Long Game, a play that examines the public commentary around sexual assault victims, the challenges for women living in the public eye and feminism in politics. Playing at Explosives Factory from 28 June to 13 July.

What drew you to perform in The Long Game by Sally Faraday?

That this would be a piece of theatre and story making that had a voice, and a place in the ongoing issues and forums around assault, power, victim blaming, action and inaction.

Sally and I have been working together in other capacities for over 20 years. When Brittany Higgins came forward about her story of assault and the reactions, fallout and experience came to public view, Sally said "I have to write about something like this". At the time, the #MeToo movement had also gained a lot more traction, people were getting angry and wanted more proactive actions and justice from the legal and political system. Sally talked about a number of ideas based on the topics that these events brought up, so I have been lucky to be part of a very early invitation for this project. I have enjoyed the process of creative input, a number of iterations of the script and the development process. The topics and themes in the play are very current, relevant and important to so many people. Then the piece got even more intimate when she set it around a family of women.


What have been some challenges in balancing your roles as producer and actor?

It's no secret, it's all about working with a terrific team of creatives, cast, and crew! We have the skills and expertise of the Theatre Works production team to lean to.

Yes, there have been a lot of hats to wear and needing time to get things done can be challenging. However, The Long Game writer, Sally Faraday and I are sharing the producing load - I did pre production and coordination whilst she kept on with rewrites and drafts of the script, she now does the co producing while I step into the rehearsal space. 

Everyone has been pitching in to help in so many ways with their talents - our wonderful co directors, cast and a brilliant design team. I've been able to step into more acting responsibilities because of the commitment, support and energy that our co director Krystalla Pearce, Sally and the team have brought to the pre production process. We have a marvellous group on board who are just as passionate about the story, its subject matter and making it a beautiful piece of theatre so they have helped balance, juggle and realise this project.


How do you navigate the delivery of sensitive and challenging themes on stage?

Our co directors Krystalla Pearce and Alkisti Pitsaki have created a safe environment in our workshop and rehearsal space. We have some support tools for cast to 'de-role' if they need and on those are contacts for further support services if needed. So the cast and crew have been feeling supported in the process. It's all about looking out for each other and communication. In the world of the script we have looked at layering in humour to help balance the darker aspects of the material.

We have had a number of discussions about aspects of the script with full knowledge that it may be triggering for some audience members and have made sure content warnings are in place. 

As an actor it is important to be clear about your own boundaries and what kind of work you choose to do and have the tools or access to the people you would need if your work in this context gets challenging. In my training, I have had tremendous coaches who teach their actors/students to be able to 'drop out' or let go of their work after a rehearsal or show and do something outside the work for themselves. So it's then about awareness and self care.


Can you tell us a bit more about the Post-Show Q&A after the performance on 5th July?

We are proud and grateful that we are able to run the Q and A event! It has been one of the important reasons for producing this piece as we wanted to create a platform or safe space for further conversation about assault, safety in the home, work environment. The issue of rights, support and justice affect us all.

Our special guest panellists are the Executive Director of The Victorian Women's Trust, Mary Crooks, AO and the CEO of Sexual Assault Services Victoria, Kathleen Maltzahn. 

Both will be bringing their expertise to the panel to discuss themes, topics and issues that the play evokes and the areas of importance related to their respective organisations. We would love to have audience members come along and be part of an enriching and interesting evening in conversation with our guests and cast.


What conversations do you hope The Long Game encourages among the audience after seeing the show?

I hope the show will relate to people on any number of levels, be it through the personal, moral, social (impact, equity), legal, political connections they make with it. I hope the audience walks away with earnest discussion and debate on the various themes and topics but also the stories of the 3 women the play is centred around. The characters are human, flawed, brave making for a very layered and fractured family dynamic. 

I hope they come away with more questioning, query, and interrogation on the current state of affairs because it is that kind of thought, inquiry and/or personal reflection that enhances change and action. And based on what is still going on around the world at the moment: for example, rape and assault in war torn parts of the world, rape and assault as weapons and power, abusers and coercive controllers in the home, work place being named, more victims speaking out or seeking help, this (unfortunately) remains a prevalent and urgent issue.

I hope that some might feel empowered to do something for themselves, whether it be through support services and networks or through education and assistance.


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