It is possible to experience a variety of things within an hour. It is advertised by the organizers as Sydney Festival’s “festival within a festival.” Carriageworks’ About an Hour program combines the arts of dance, theatre, and visual artworks that last under 60 minutes. We sought out some of the show’s producers to think about the impact that one hour can have on the lives of people and then share the most memorable experiences. Stories of love pr, professional awakenings, birth, death, and awe-inspiring secret affairs are the episodes that changed the course of their lives.
Halcyon MacLeod (My Darling Patricia), the theatre maker, The Piper
When we first started as a business, My Darling Patricia didn’t have a name, but we were working on projects together, as well as an installation at Petersham Town Hall. We’d been granted the caretaker’s home in the space in the upper part of the hall. In addition, had collected a number of possible props from an estate that had passed away. There was a grooming set inside an old, dusty container, an old-fashioned silver mirror that had a bizarre floral design on the back, an animal hair brush, and a combing comb.
The box was deteriorating, and affixed to the cardboard backing of its satin liner was an unreadable letter that was sticky-taped by a tape that had become sticky. This was an affectionate note that started by saying, “My Darling Patricia … ” The letter was ten pages long, and the language became more emotional and wild as it grew.
The letter came from Keith. It was evidently an affair that was to remain kept from the public eye and not proclaimed across the streets. We were shocked as it was an amazing discovery of a secret that had been hidden for over fifty years. We were searching to find a name at the time, and my Darling Patricia seemed to fit. There was something in the discovery that resonated and continues to resonate in our work. There’s a feminine feeling to it, which goes with it – telling the stories that are hidden from women, the feeling of a hidden world, the relics of stories, clues…
Liesbeth Gritter (Kassys), theatre maker, Cadavre Exquis
I was on an airplane – we just finished our show in Lisbon as I was gazing at the outside and enjoying the weather and the sky. We had been there for a whole week, and I was really impressed because everything was small but wild and not very neat. I’m from Amsterdam, and there’s nothing left of nature in Amsterdam. There are a few parks, but everything is cultivated, and it’s no longer real. It’s fine, and you can get everything you need – the museums and movies. However, I felt the desire for air and to be outdoors. About.
When I boarded the plane to leave Lisbon, I was thinking, “I have to live there, I want to live here.” So, on the plane, they had bags to get sick in sitting in the seat, and I carried one of them along with an eraser. In the sick bag, I determined with my pencil whether I had the money to go through this process or not. Now I’m in Portugal. My house is like a farm. When I step out of my front door, what I first look at isn’t a bus, cars, or even people but a tree. Or a bird. Or chicken.
Sarah Giles, director of His Music Burns
A couple of years ago, I witnessed my grandmother’s death in a nursing facility. The name she gave was Sheila. She was a mother of four children who resided all over Australia and returned with her in order to grieve. I was at my house with my partner when I received a text message from my mother that said, “Granny’s not going to be much longer; you might want to come.”
My cousin and uncle were there but were gone, as my mother and I were also there and held her hand when she fell into a death rattle. Her breathing went in, out … as well as then in as well … and then she breathed more slowly and then breathed out, and then she did not breathe again. My mother and I realized that the time was up, and we burst into tears.
As we were crying, there in this incredibly euphoric emotional rage, Granny breathed in again as if she were in a false alarm. He wasn’t dead, and we couldn’t help laughing. The mood was changed. My uncle returned to the room, and we discussed the story of what occurred and the reason why we were having a good time and were discussing her life and the people she had met … And in the conversation, she disappeared. The incident had a profound impact on me. I realized at that moment that the line between sadness and joy and sadness of life and death isn’t always clear. It’s what you’ll discover in Beckett. He understands how much laughter and sorrow are positioned next to each other. I’ve never been the same since that day. This hour. I look at life from a different perspective.
Dalisa Pigram, conceiver/performer, Gudirr Gudirr
I was 20 and 21 the same year in Broome, and I was expecting my very first baby. I was on a gig as a backup performing for an artiste from the local area. I’d had a huge argument – and a heated debate about my mother’s behavior in the car as we drove. I was experiencing contractions. However, I believed these were the Braxton-Hicks thingies. She replied: “I think I should be taking you to the hospital,” and I replied, “No I’ve assured me I’ll be at the hospital. I’m not letting him down.”
The singer was the father of two children, significantly more advanced than me, and he quickly realized what was happening. He stated, “Look, mate – go! Go to the hospital!” The event was an in-background gig in a cafe in the town, and he was unable to quit, so he kept playing the music while I resisted going back to the car park. I was certain that my mother was there telling me: “I told you so. I told you you were having this baby!”
It was a lengthy and drawn-out labor in the hospital, but Mum was with us all the duration; the baby was born … It was a moment of life-changing as I saw the adorable face.
Rob Drummond, writer/performer, Bullet Catch
I went to college to study English. However, you had to choose additional subjects, too. Then, I saw the advisor for my studies. I was expecting him to be some life-saver. Instead, what he first told me was, “I’ve never advised anyone before; it’s my first day on the job, you’re my first customer and I don’t know what I’m doing.” Then he asked, “How about Slavonic studies?”
I had no idea what it was until it was clear that this was his topic, and the goal was to get people to agree to it. I was just 18, and, at the time, I was quite easily seduced until this day. I’m not sure why I wasn’t a part of it. However, I was uncharacteristically adamant to say no.
We sat for an entire hour going over all the other subjects; it was becoming so embarrassing that I chose to declare “yes” to the next thing. And he asked, “How about theatre studies?” If he’d had stated, “How about physical education?” I could have been a PE teacher right now. If he wasn’t so terrible at what he did, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t decided to go into theatre. I was a life-sustainer, and I didn’t even know it.
Henna Kaikula performer Forklift
I’m from Rovaniemi, located in Finland in Finland, which is the place where Santa Claus is from. I was just six years old and was watching television on Christmas Eve. Every year, there was a circus on the TV at Christmas time in Finland. Then, I saw the Chinese chaos with four women performing contortions together. I decided I wanted to be a circus performer at that point and then. [That was] 1986. They performed a trick in which you lay on your stomach and placed your legs on your face. I then began training myself to achieve it. I worked on and practiced it on my own at home, and when I was able to get it down, I told my mom that I needed to be a circus performer.
There wasn’t a school for circuses in my area, So my mom was the one who took me to gymnastics. I learned and competed on the national stage until I was 16, when I relocated to Helsinki and discovered a circus school. There, I switched between gymnastics and circus. From the age of 23, I’ve been working professionally. I’m now 33, which is a total of 10 years.
It was chance – Christmas Eve and the right channel, and the TV in the air … as that day has changed my entire life. From friendships, passions, and hobbies to traveling and even doing work … every aspect, good and bad, of my life comes out of that one moment.
Lisa Havilah, artistic director, Carriageworks
I was the very first student to complete a law degree in creative arts at the University of Wollongong. I studied law in order to make my father happy while I was a student of painting. There were huge studios at the College of Creative Arts at that time, and I was in one upstairs. Glenn Barkley [now senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, was one year older than me, and he also had the studio downstairs. I had a vague awareness of him, but we never talked much. Then, one day, he gave me the book. Brice Marden, an American conceptual artist, wrote it. I’m not sure the reason he did it.
It was lost or stolen. I was embarrassed, so to find a placement, I offered the author Robert Hughes’ Nothing if Not Critical. However, when I handed the book to him, he stated, “I’ve already got this book.”
The moment was shared between us – I was twenty, Glenn was 19, and we shared a common experience of growing up on the South Coast and taking art classes at Wollongong University. However, I realized that I had found someone with the same intellectual and critical approach to art as I did, and he could see the same thing in me. It began with the exchange of a book. Within six months, we’d established an art gallery called Project Contemporary Art Space in Wollongong and continued to work alongside each day for three years. The first night we met occurred at Splashes nightclub after the Wollongong University bar, which was closed every day at noon. We’ve now been there for more than 20 years.