Over the last seven weeks theatre maker Romi Kupfer has been busy working as an Associate Artist on OpticNerve Performance Group’s production of Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard’s Polygraph. In her role of Director’s Assistant, Kupfer has been given the opportunity to witness the unique approach to performance that Tanya Gerstle – director of Polygraph and Artistic Director of OpticNerve – practices.
RK: The last seven weeks have been an unbelievable experience. Tanya is an incredible director and so generous with her time and her knowledge. To be part of her art making process has been a really invaluable experience for me. Because I devise and make theatre, it’s not as straight forward as having a text and then having actors acting it out and putting it on, so I’ve always been quite nervous of the general industry standards of four-week rehearsal times and strong text based theatre so it’s been great to find a medium between that and Tanya’s work.
RK: She still does text based theatre but she comes at it from a very physical perspective using her methodology of Pulse. I feel very fortunate to be getting to see her in the room working with the methodology that she created and even after seven weeks of 10am-6pm five days a week, intense physically tiring and gruelling work, it has brought out some inspired work by the cast. It has also been a very fun process to be included in, where I have felt valued and been very lucky that I have gained all these friendships within the process.
Kupfer began her career as a theatre maker during her Bachelor of Performing Arts studies at Monash University when she wrote and directed her first show Femme and from there her love for theatre grew.
RK: I researched that show by interviewing lots of different female identifying people and wrote a script based on those interviews. We devised the material in rehearsal with four fellow students and that was the first thing I made that I headed up myself with a vision and passion. I received lots of really good feedback and it was affirming to be able to put something together that you have worked on for months and to slowly watch it come alive.
The opportunity to not only be one of Theatre Works’ Associate Artists but also the chance to work with OpticNerve was a no-brainer for Kupfer, especially with her previous interactions with the companies.
RK: I went to see OpticNerve’s 2016 production of Mill and the Floss and it completely blew my mind. Seeing physical theatre with text excited me, so after seeing that, I did a masterclass with Tanya and wanted to get to know more about her and her process and we developed a good relationship and then Polygraph came along and everything just aligned. Being an Associate Artist has been a great experience especially working in a semi-professional independent setting.
Up until now I have toured my Honours performance Singing Swallows, it’s very small and only consists of four people, so it’s been great to be in an environment where you can see the standard that’s expected and the way people work in defined roles. Especially when you’re in uni, everyone takes on multiple jobs to make it work but to get to a professional standard you need to be really good at what you do and work with other people that are really good in what they do so that you can support an amazing production coming together.
RK: Being privy to this sort of process alongside with Theatre Works has been extremely valuable knowledge to help me in my career and to know the expectations surrounding how to make and present a show. Participating in the Associate Artists program has also been a fantastic opportunity to connect with other emerging artists and to get to know Theatre Works as a company better. I definitely would recommend it, and the program can only get better and stronger.
Read more about Polygraph here.