A Week in the Country – by Jessica Bellamy

Last week, commissioned Playwright Julian Larnach, Mentor Jessica Bellamy and Creative Producer Claire Harris got together at HotHouse Thetare’s Country House for the first in a series of residencies to develop Julian’s work for staging in OTYP’s 2015 Season. We were lucky enough to work with HotHouse’s Studio Ensemble, meet some new cow friends and bask in the sunshine and sounds of country life.

Jessica, with her usual with and humour, tells us all about it. She really does love us huh?!

A Week in the Country

The thing about working with Outback Theatre for Young People is: it never gets boring. I mean this in a few ways.

Firstly, there’s the scenery. It’s hard to get writers’ block or feel uninspired when you’re hanging out on the Hay Plains, walking through Deniliquin’s Island Sanctuary, or serenading a pack of 11 curious steers who are all very interested in what sort of dramaturgy you’re getting up to.

Secondly, there’s the work. I have a theory that once you get bitten by the “working with young people” bug, there’s no going back. There’s something very intoxicating about the honesty and enthusiasm of a young group of theatre makers soaking up any opportunity they can find, whether it directly relates to their life goals and personal interests or not.

Finally, there’s the colleagues. I love working with other artists who really care about providing opportunities for young people to develop their skills and passions. They’re usually pretty nice people who are into the same sort of bad TV and 9pm bedtimes as you are.

All this is a pretty long introduction but it’s not like I’m in a massive hurry today, because we are on RETREAT. I’m currently sitting in a rehearsal shed at HotHouse Theatre’s country house in Albury, looking out at the bright green grass in front of me and the swirls of dust conjured up by passing utes speeding down the road at the end of the paddock.

I’m in Albury working as a mentor for the EMERGE project, which is OTYP’s new project to commission exciting young voices to write plays that speak to the outback experience. The winner of the commission is Julian Larnach, who is writing a play inspired by his own teenage years in outback NSW.

The week has been full of highlights: not only has it been great to chew the hay with Jules and discuss the conceptual scaffolding of his play, world, characters and themes, but we’ve been lucky enough to workshop the play with young people from HotHouse Theatre’s youth ensemble. This group of 16-26 year olds has provided us with incredible detail, subtleties, stories and hilarious moments, all of which will contribute to the relevance and authenticity of Julian’s final draft.

I’ll leave you there, because those cows hanging out on the other side of the fence waiting for our arvo chat are probably getting a bit worried. Better start getting excited about the production of the EMERGE play in 2015, if you ask me. Until then.

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