We sat down with Krystalla Pearce and Bridget Balodis, to talk about their upcoming collection of short plays known as She is Vigilante at Theatre Works. In February 2019, Bridget Balodis and Krystalla Pearce put a call out for women writers to develop a series of short works to be presented at Theatre Works St.Kilda in late 2019. The works all centre on the topic of women vigilantes: Women who take the law into their own hands, fight for justice, do bad things because they have to. The works have been developed and will be performed by predominantly untrained artists and developed through a combined process of devising and script-writing.
TW: What drew you to the theme of vigilantism and how does that link to where we’re at now as a society?
BB: Well I guess we were interested in the question of what women can do in response to the threat of violence, particularly violence in public spaces. At the time of conceiving this work there had been a number of cases in Melbourne where women had been killed by men in public spaces. So we were talking about what it would be like if women took matters into their own hands, what would that look like? And I guess, an exciting extension of the theme was that it meant the creation of some wild and problematic characters and some fresh new narratives featuring women – both of which we felt we could use more of on Melbourne stages!
TW: What drew you to creating a writing program and performance with a community-based ensemble, rather than writing and producing a more conventional piece of theatre?
KP: When Bridget and I started talking about collaborating together on our first Melbourne-based project, we were excited to explore different ways of making theatre. We see our own access to performance spaces such as Theatre Works as a real privilege and something that we would like to make available to others. So we conceived of a project that included artists that were not already part of our circles and who were new to Theatre Works – our writer call out was anonymous so we didn’t know the names of our writers until we had selected them based on their writing. We sourced our performers through local council groups, public housing and online groups – anyone who was interested in performing and could commit to the rehearsals was given a role, we didn’t hold any auditions. We have gathered the most incredible group of artists! Yes, it’s unconventional but what’s really exciting is that there is no compromise on quality, rather these writers and performers are all the more captivating because they are not what we’re used to seeing on our stages.
BB: It’s always nice to shake up your practice isn’t it! I think yes, primarily we were interested in access and in a work that’s partly about the empowerment of women, why not empower some real, regular women to do something they might have always wanted to: get up on the Theatre Works stage.
TW: What’s been the most rewarding thing about the year long process of mentorship, and working with your ensemble?
BB: I think the little community that we’ve built has been the most rewarding thing. That we’ve brought quite a diverse group of women together and we’ve found a lot of common ground. And it’s been great working with the writers, giving feedback and watching the pieces transform and take shape.
KP: I agree. It’s also been fantastic working with Bridget, especially at this time in our lives. I went into labour with my second child the day that we selected our Vigilante writers (!!!) and Bridget is currently seven months pregnant. This has been an amazing time to create together and support one another. We’re also learning so much from all of the women involved in the project who have such a variety of backgrounds.
TW: How are you making this work more accessible & engaging for new audiences; and what do you think those new audiences might get out of She is Vigilante?
BB: I think that one of the biggest barriers we’re addressing is to do with class or the right to inhabit arts space. We believe that putting regular people on stage, rather than trained actors, we’re also inviting their broader networks into those spaces, saying that even if you’ve never been to the theatre before, now you can come and see someone like you up there, owning that space; a space that you might have otherwise assumed was sort of elitist.
TW: What’s next for these five works and where may they go afterwards?
KP: As Bridget noted, we are hoping that She Is Vigilante will open Theatre Works’ doors to new audiences. We also acknowledge that this is something that requires more work that can be done in one independent theatre project! Our hope is that we can continue to work on the work we are doing with these writers and ensemble members to further develop some of these short plays into longer pieces and continue our broader discussions on access and new ways of making theatre.
Read more about She Is Vigilante here.