Life, and all that drama

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Working in theatre lets you live many lives, says Naomi Edwards, who talks to Indian Sun about her passion for the arts

Behind the success of Naomi Edwards, a renowned theatre director and art educator, is a long journey of struggle, devotion and hard work. Hailing from Melbourne, she started doing plays when in kindergarten. She says she was so obsessed by the theatre that she used to stage concerts in her backyard along with her brother. “Theatre is a place of concentration and is a way of looking at the world,” believes Naomi.

She tells IS more about her love for theatre.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

I love the immediacy of live performance. As an artist, I look for poetic things that we can’t articulate in our waking life. Theatre is a unique opportunity to learn so much about the world and the people in it.

What does theatre mean to you?

Theatre is a way of seeing the world. Everything is fodder for the imagination. It is a place to reflect and understand the shared and lived experience of being on the planet.

When did you start doing theatre?

My earliest memory was staging concerts in my backyard with my brother. I was also the Virgin Mary in my kindergarten Christmas show.

What inspired you to choose theatre as a career?

I wanted to do everything, and theatre demands that of you. One day you are working with ideas about space, the next, a specific point in history, the next, reflecting on contemporary politics and so on. There is no end or limit. Working in theatre lets you live many lives.

Whenever I do a play, I try to being out what the playwright or composer is trying to express. I try to stimulate the audience’s minds and souls and of course their imaginations. It is all about how you make the characters play their roles so that the subject comes alive before the audience.

How many plays have you done so far?

Approximately 60, besides six operas.

What gives you the most satisfaction in theatre?

It is the moment when there is a breakthrough; when a performer does something they don’t think they could have done, or when someone from the audience tells you they are changed by the show.

What is your favorite play and who is your favorite writer?

Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare are my two favourite writers. Mozart is my favourite opera composer.

Tell us something about working with the Sydney and Melbourne Theatre Companies?

They are two great companies, with wonderful resources. I learnt an enormous amount at both these companies. The demands of a big company are the same as on a little independent company, the difference being the big companies’ demands are far bigger.

You have also worked with Opera Australia? What is it all about?

I direct for the schools company touring productions and assist directors on main stage productions — most recently Don Pasquale. I have a music background, so opera allows me to combine my two loves.

What are the other theatre groups you have worked with?

St Martins Youth Arts Centre, Bell Shakespeare, RADA in London, Victorian Opera, and Disney.

Have you ever worked with the Indian community?

My first experience was with actor Aishveryaa, who runs the Abhinay School of Performing Arts. I consulted for Lakme for Opera Australia. I learnt a great deal as we worked on culture, gesture and the beliefs of the characters.

Lakmé captures the ambiance of the Orient seen through Western eyes. What is your favourite part of Lakme?
I am a sucker for a love story, two people trying to be together against the odds.

How was it working on Indian theme; anything that fascinated you about Indian culture?

Learning about the hand gestures and how they are so different from those in western culture was fascinating. And very useful for the performers.

I think we were able to make the show more authentic, more informed by Indian culture. The performers loved the language and expressiveness of the veil and what they could communicate with it.

Would you like to work in India or Indian themes again?

Absolutely! It is really an amazing experience to work on Indian themes.

Is Lakme travelling to other countries/cities in near future?

It is in repertoire at Opera Australia, which means it will have a return season in the coming years, perhaps in Melbourne. It was also recorded for DVD.

Have your plays been staged anywhere else in the world?

I have directed in London and in New York.

What are you working on now?

I am currently writing an opera for 3-8 year olds called When Moon Dust Falls, about the magic of sleep. I am also working on another play called The Waiting Room about the history of IVF. Two very different and exciting projects.

Your awards and achievements?

Last year, I was awarded the Gloria Dawn/Gloria Payten Scholarship and the Mike Walsh Scholarship, which allowed me to attend the Lincoln Center Directors Lab in New York, as well as meet with companies in the UK and Washington.
A production I directed earlier this year has been nominated for Best Children’s Presentation at the Helpmann Awards. Fingers crossed!

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Madmimi


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