An exploration of Identity and experience in all of its messy glory: An interview with Brodie Shelley about her upcoming show Letters I Never Sent
Broadwayworld's Brisbane editor Virag Dombay decided to sit down with actor Brodie Shelley to have a chat about her upcoming project Letters I Never Sent, which is playing at the 2019 Melt Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Letters I Never Sent is quite unique to the other acts in the MELT Festival. What inspired the creation of the work and the form it took?
Brodie: MNTC was founded on the idea of truthfully telling stories about 'people like us' who are young, queer and still figuring things out. Letters I Never Sent is an extension of that, using verbatim text to explore different situations, different ways that people think and talk about themselves. It's about recognising yourself and the people around you onstage. For this recent development, we looked at the world around us, specifically in Australia. There's been a lot of amazing news recently, like marriage equality, but lgbt/queer people are still living at a disadvantage, some more than others.
How does your performance piece truthfully tell these stories and how did you find stories to tell? What was that process like?
We started with an open call for submissions, about things that people had never said and stories they'd never told about being lgbt. We also asked for love stories, and letter about being in love, because it was important for us to tell stories about love and community as well. Authenticity is something that MNTC always aims for, with our cast and creatives being part of the communities that we tell stories about. People in the company were able to draw directly from their own experiences for the play, and anonymously submit their own letters.
How did you curate these letters?
That was the work of our director and playwright, Art Green. The transition from letter collection to scenes in a play was based around common themes, as well as submissions that had different views on the same topic. It was important to not only look at community, but also at the ways that queer people aren't a monolith, and have their own experiences and opinions.
Were you ever worried that you wouldn't have enough submissions?
We were originally, but people in Brisbane have a lot to say about their lives and loves! I think the submissions being totally anonymous helped.
How has the work changed since its debut showing in 2016?
We performed this show in 2016 at Backbone's 2high festival, and since then a lot has changed both politically and personally for the cast and creatives. I wasn't in the original group that worked on the show but I did see it. This version is a more refined and mature version of the show, we explore a bit more the harsh reality of being queer in a heteronormative world, and keep grounding the show in reality. We've kept most of the original letters we received too, with some new additions from the new cast among others. The political climate is also very different from 2016 particularly with Australia's legalisation of gay marriage, and with that a more widespread understanding of basic queer language and terminology. The original show was closer to a "guide" for people who knew nothing about queer people, the current version is still accessible for people who know very little about queer people, but speaks more to the people whose stories we are telling.
If you could summarise your show in one sentence, what would that be?
Letters I Never Sent explores identity and experience in all its messy glory and stumbling words