MELBOURNE BLOGBACK: THE COVID CRONICLES
EPISODE NINE – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH THE GANG #6
By Lucy Schmidt
Josiah Lulham is a fellow newbie. I met this extraordinary gent during MPTC’s extensive audition process, around three and a half years ago. My first impression (I’m guessing most everyone that meets him has the same) OMG! That man’s beard is the most beautiful shade of fire! I often think that Josiah’s parents must be incredibly proud. He is talented, kind, a feminist, a brainiac, courteous, creative and all kinds of things I imagine one could want in a modern son. He has an energetic soul that is always up for learning new skills (and bringing them back to our grateful company).
He always listens attentively and soaks up information like a hungry sponge and usually does this wearing a big smile.
I envy his physical, in-his-body-ness and strength. It’s like every cell is dancing within and he is controlling the beat with the precision of a seasoned conductor. I enjoy working with Josiah, tremendously. He embodies the improv principals and always supports decisions made by fellow actors with enthusiasm and commitment. I also admire that he is such a dedicated practitioner, devoting time to diarise performances (in tiny writing), studying those who inspire his creative journey and applying all to his craft. It’s all there in beautiful 3D truthfulness when Josiah takes the stage. He has the gift I call ‘spreading the joy’.
1 – How does improv help you in your day to day life?
Knowing how to improvise as a theatre maker and performer is like a kind of secret superpower, because it feels as though it provides me the capacity to be ready for just about anything. I started tutoring at a university at the beginning of the year, and by week four staff and students were all working from home. Most staff had to scramble to prepare for teaching online, finding expertise with Zoom and working out how to deliver classes online. As an improviser, one thing you can’t be is a perfectionist, and I think this capacity to just dive in and give something a go really aided my ability to tutor for the rest of the semester—leaning into experimenting, checking in for feedback from the students, and being present with this digital learning environment without being rigid.
2 – How are you using your creative juices during the COVID19 restrictions?
Sewing. Lots of sewing. I have sewn two small hats, and a kind of smock. All by hand, too! A hobby of mine is live action role play, which involves dressing up in various costumes and acting out various scenarios, usually involving some kind of medieval battle. Every Friday, ordinarily, I would be in Royal Park at a sports oval swinging swords with friends, but during lockdown all the games have stopped. So, instead, I am working on my costumes, and learning some sewing skills while I’m at it.
3 – In your opinion, what makes a good story?
I am a current PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne studying anthropology—and I’m thinking about this question a lot. Narrative has extraordinary power—it is argued largely that narrative is the thing we all do to generate meanings during this time. During COVID-19 and social distancing, I have been feeling as though I am in the middle of a story, but can’t quite work out what the ending is. As a result, what makes a good story right now is one that has an end!
4 – Do you have any pre-performance must do’s or superstitions?
Stretching. So much stretching. Just… lots of stretching. I like to stretch.
5 – If you could thank someone who helped you in your early career – who would it be and why?
There are three I can think of. The first is Jacquie Green, one of the dance teachers at YABC (Young Australian Broadway Chorus), who taught dance. She was an extremely rigorous dance teacher, but also someone that every student really wanted to impress. I think I learned rigour in my own practice from her, and in turn her early training has helped me embrace dance and physical theatre in my current art practice. The other two are from University of Melbourne Student Theatre: the artistic director, Tom Gutteridge; and, an early mentor who I met through student theatre when we were both studying, Alex Talamo. Tom fostered a supportive and diverse community at the University of Melbourne, and directed me in some of my favourite works there. And Alex, who founded the DiG Collective, taught me a lot about improvisation, clowning, and facilitated a space for solo performance making that I regularly go back to and think about as I make work now. All three of these people are very formative for the way I think about art now. Thanks, guys!
6 – What do you miss the most about not performing during the COVID19 restrictions?
Bodies. I miss feeling like I have a body, I miss being in the presence of other bodies, and I miss the liveness of performance. I’ve seen and been involved in a few performance adjacent events on Zoom, which have been fun. But being in a room with people and using our bodies to imagine new worlds to inhabit—both as performers and audiences—is something I am sorely missing. I am really looking forward to getting back into the rehearsal room with the Melbourne Playback ensemble, and rediscovering our moving theatrical bodies!