Round two of our Spotlight Series showcases the seriously talented & esteemed Australian playwright, Hellie Turner! TNEP chats with Hellie
TNEP: What inspired you to pursue a career in theatre originally as an actress and now writer?
HELLIE: Simple really. I’ve always been emotionally receptive and had a vivid imagination. As child these traits manifested in a strong desire to write, later they morphed into a desire to ‘be’ and ‘do’ … hence the acting, followed by a long stint directing other people’s work and my own. One of life’s little circles … I’m now back where I began, trying to put truth to paper.
TNEP : How has growing up in Australia shaped and influenced you as a playwright?
HELLIE: In fact I grew up in the severe north of Australia, pre-cyclone … where bad men, and women with secrets escaped to … and folk went ‘troppo’ every wet season. It was a wild and free childhood. This early backdrop has lived in me, bleeding itself into my work in a myriad of ways. Living in WA for the duration of my career as a playwright has meant a degree of isolation, and despite the support I have in my own artistic community, the tyranny of distance has definitely created some career hindrances. That’s life …
TNEP: What female artists are you inspired by and why?
HELLIE: All female artists … because it’s a peculiar and challenging life to pursue and thrive in. The endeavour for women in the Arts (in life?) is fraught with obstacles and barriers which lie mostly in the errant perceptions about women (by men and women) of what women are capable of. Women rock, full-stop.
TNEP: What is your take on the state of women in theatre? There has been a lot of awareness brought to the need for female playwrights and stories about women being depicted on stage. Do you feel there is a lack of representation when it comes to female playwrights and actors getting exposure or work? What has been your experience as a woman in the theatre? Both in Australia and overseas?
HELLIE: Some days I wake up feeling very ‘Scum Manifesto’ about men in theatre (re Ms Solanas). I’ve born witness to the rise of ‘affirmative action’ for women in theatre a number of times over the years. It rises up and goes away. Men seemingly have the preferred voice. I once lived in the gloomy angst of this notion, but have decided its best to expend the emotional energy on my work. One day this perception might change … probably not in my life-time …
TNEP: When it comes to stories about women, is there anything you are craving to see that is different from what has been portrayed in the past on stage?
HELLIE: Stories from the past or contemporary stories, it matters not … only that there is bravery and ownership. Big stories that splay the truthful guts and hearts of women. Ultimately it’s not about being a woman … it’s about being a ‘people’ … and claiming the territory of human experience in bold ways.
TNEP: Why is theatre so important and why, in your opinion does it connect with people so deeply?
HELLIE: Theatre is your story and mine … a mirror, a conduit and a voice. It fulfils human need to be recognised and truly ‘seen’. It’s all about people … the beating heart, the laughter, the tears. Theatre is memories and reflection … simultaneously visceral and tangible … involving real humans in the act of revealing real emotion (when it’s done well). Apart from all this, the connection is also about the immediacy and the risk factor. What’s not to value??
TNEP: What are you currently working on? What should we keep an eye out for and support?
HELLIE: These days I’m predominantly a playwright …often commissioned by companies, but continuing to write the plays that burn in me. Currently I’m working on 3 commissions which is a feat of juggling in itself. Two of these are for the ANZAC centenary year (2015) and the other involves the life stories of two remarkable indigenous women from the north-west. I’m also ‘making’ a documentary theatre work about ‘rape culture and victim blaming’. This involves working with a team as writer/director, which feels a lot different to working in isolation in ‘my cave’. Hopefully some of these projects will make their way to the stage in the not too distant future.
Hellie is represented by Literary Agent RGM in WA, Australia.
To see a list of her plays and to obtain publisher information please go to: