There are Trees that are Dancers

Background

In 2010/2011 Monica Raszewski was awarded a Victorian State Library Creative Fellowship to research and write the first draft of a play based on material in the Sybil Craig bequest. ‘There are Trees that are Dancers’ was thus inspired by the diaries, artwork and letters of the Australian Modernist painter Sybil Craig 1901 -1989. The character of ‘Hilda’ grew from these artefacts while an interview with Sybil Craig by Barbara Blackman for the National Library oral history programme led to the creation of a second character –‘Vera’. This real life encounter is re-imagined in the form of a non-naturalistic, innovative exploration of intimacy and how we see what we want, or miss it altogether. 

‘There are Trees that are Dancers’ received a R.E. Ross Trust Playwrights’ Development Award in 2012. This facilitated a week long workshop at Dancehouse with a director, two actors and a physical theatre dramaturg. The aim of the workshop was to experiment with the dynamics between Hilda and Vera and to explore through movement the surrealism in the script. Following the workshop a moved reading was held at fortyfive downstairs. A second moved reading of a section of the play was part of the Flashpoint readings at The State Library in 2013. 

Workshop Participants:

Elaine Hudson – Director 

Monica Raszewski - Writer

Adam Pierzchalski - Physical theatre consultant

Eloise Oxer – Actor (Hilda)

Debra Lawrance – Actor (Vera)

Flashpoint reading at the State Library of Victoria

Excerpts from the play were performed during this series of play readings with the following cast:

Eloise Oxer – Actor (Hilda)

Jane Nolan– Actor (Vera)

The play

Vera, tape recorder in hand, enters the reclusive artist's home. She is intent on getting the definitive account of Hilda's life and times. But how to get the octogenarian artist to reveal salient facts not only about her own history but also about her fellow artists, their personal lives and their art as Modernism arrived in Melbourne? Vera tries to pin down Hilda but everything about Hilda resists and rejects Vera’s classifications. A struggle begins and both women play with each other, sometimes cruelly, creating a tension between what is revealed and what is hidden. The action of the play explores solitariness, the unbalanced movement between exterior and interior life, between public and intimate space and the possibility of one person drawing another into a different reality. It exposes the complex ambiguities which characterised Hilda’s relationship with her mother; that helped fuel her artistic endeavours but also resulted in a nervous breakdown. As the play progresses the traditional power held by the interviewer over her subject begins to break down allowing Hilda and Vera to move beyond artefacts and questions and answers to a more ambiguous and finally more revealing encounter.

 Production

La Mama will present ‘There are Trees that are Dancers' in association with cumulus productions as part of their Winter Season..

Performances at La Mama Courthouse from  20 August 2014 - 31 August 2014 

 The Company 

 Beverley Geldard - actor

 Jane Nolan - actor

 Monica Raszewski - writer

 Elaine Hudson - director/co-producer

 Adam Pierzchalski - movement consultant

 Marc Raszewski - set design

 Jo Lewis - costume design

 Piotr Nowotnik - sound design

 Wally Eastland - lighting design

 Pamela Eastland - stage manager