Now I promised I would try and blog every week, this is week two – so I better write a blog. And for this post, I thought I would go all the way back to my first play. Well, my first play was actually in Year 4 and was called, “The Lost Boy”, but I digress, my first indy theatre play was in 2000. And when I look at these photos, that hair of mine, it was a look. Here is a blog about it (the play, not the hair).
In 1999 I unsuccessfully tried to fund a feature film, “Tom’s Funeral”. We thought we had a bunch of money, but no, and the film project fell over. I was a little lost and didn’t know what to do. I had cast Rebecca Smart in the film and had gone to see her in a play, that quite frankly, was not the best. After the show she came out and asked what I thought, I said, “It was great”, and she said, “What did you really think?”, I said I thought it was terrible and that I could write a better play and she said, “Why don’t you?”. So, I did. I wrote a play, “Beyond the Door”. It was about six people who all died and found themselves in the waiting room at the Pearly Gates.
I didn’t know much about theatre, and there really wasn’t an indy theatre scene back then. But as many people know, when I put my mind to something, I do it. One of the actors had a friend who had a photographic studio that had a stage. So I booked it. The toilet was literally under the stage, so we had to close the toilet 5 minutes before the show to put the stage down and set the stage. Ticket sites were too expensive, so I hired a credit card machine from the bank and sold tickets from my own phone line and we also sold tickets over the counter at Fish Records (the now defunct music store that ripped me off and never paid me from my tickets).
The women were all cast and we held auditions for the rest of the men (naturally I cast myself) and was lucky to cast the amazing Rodger Corser, long before he became a big TV star and Gold Logie nominee. I really don’t know what I was thinking, I had never directed before, I had never really acted before either and here I was doing a play with serious professional actors. I fudged it and somehow we had a product I was really happy with. I guess my instincts got me through.
I didn’t know we should have previews and just opened the play with opening night, with family, friends and some journos. What the hell was I thinking? I have to admit, that night, opening night, is up there as one of the best of my life. Sure, we made some mistakes, but the cast really dug deep and the audience were really responding. I was a new writer back then, and the play was a style I have often written over the years, a black comedy style dramedy. So it was amazing to actually hear people laugh at my jokes and you could feel them coming on the journey with the characters. Everyone of my fears subsided during the performance and I was ecstatic. Then the show finished and the wonderful Jamie Durie, who was in the audience, lead the standing ovation.
That night, one of my brothers asked my mother if I had really written all of that play, surprised by the quality. We got some great reviews, some big publicity and we ended up having a fairly successful season where people loved the show. But more than that, I had been bitten by the theatre bug. I fell in love with that immediacy, the response you get from the audience; the laughter, the gasps, the tears. Live theatre is like a drug, and I was addicted for a long time. But they say your first hit of drugs is the one you always chase, and that first experience for me was exceptionally incredible.
This play wasn’t the best thing I have produced, but I am proud of it. It was play one and it taught me things I still use today. And more than anything, it showed that when I knocked back I can do things myself. I have always been an incredibly independent thinker, and this show was a massive instigator of that.