Local creative - Sophia Davidson Gluyas
Our local creative for February is Sophia Davidson Gluyas. (Image © Julia Firak)
Sophia is a local playwright, director and producer who is passionate about bringing more theatre to the northern beaches, and sharing stories about queer lives.
With the support of an Arts & Creativity Grant, Sophia will present her new play, Tell Me Something, in a staged reading at Council’s new creative space, Avalon Workshop, in the first public reading of her work in March.
Find Sophia online
Tell us a little about your life as a playwright?
Life as a playwright is pretty, ah, I’m not going to say ‘lonely’, because I don’t really feel lonely (my characters keep me company) but it’s very ‘alone’. I spend a lot of time in my head. So, I’m very thankful for this Northern Beaches Council creative grant that’s allowed me to get outside my head for a bit and put my producer/director hat back on.
Tell us more about your directing and producing?
Directing is a joy, actors are so generous and have this magnificent craft, this tool they work with; they give you so much of themselves. It can be surprising and confronting too, I’ll go in thinking my words mean one thing, and then I’ll learn maybe they meant something else entirely. Sometimes I’ll fight for what I intended, sometimes I’ll let the collaboration teach me things. It’s a dance, and it’s nourishing for all the artists involved (I hope!). Producing is a lot of admin, but I guess it’s a fun sort of admin, you put the foundations in place to ensure a great event, a great experience. It’s exciting.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on your creative practice and the development of your current work?
Writing is sitting in a really different place for me now and that’s been interesting and challenging and wonderful. As an independent artist, I don’t make any money from my work, so I fit in all my writing around a pay-the-rent, job. Weirdly, COVID-19, and the switch to work-from-home has meant I’ve had less time, rather than more, or, wait, that’s impossible, isn’t it? There’s always the same amount of time, but, I guess, how ‘unstructured’ time became, actually made it slightly harder for me to write. I used to commute to town at 5.30am. Then I’d sit in a café and write from 6.15 till 8am. Then I’d work 8 – 4pm and then try to slide back to Avalon before the traffic got too obscene. I was always tired, but writing was built into the structure of my day. Now, I sleep in.
I never thought I could write at night. Now I do. I never really used to write ‘with’ people. Now I do. During 2020, I was part of the Merrigong Theatre Company’s Playwrights Program, and along with their monthly workshops all the playwrights involved set up regular virtual writing jams to goad each other on and keep each other accountable. I suppose, the ‘aloneness’ of writing was mitigated somewhat last year. I wrote an awful lot with other writers sitting on the other side of the screen also tapping away! It’s been great a great solidarity activity. You show up for your friends and you write.
How has the Arts & Creativity Grant helped you meet these challenges?
The grant has given me something to focus on and build towards. A sense of purpose, I guess; the first public reading of my work. Having this on the horizon has given me hope and helped me to keep going on those days where writing for the theatre, seemed like a strange and surreal thing to be doing (in a world without theatres). Theatres are opening again, which is wonderful, and I also think we need to revisit what theatre is, and where it happens. And this grant has helped me explore those possibilities.
Tell us a little about the project for which you were awarded the grant, and how you will share it with the Northern Beaches community?
With the support of the grant I can present a staged reading of the new play I’ve been writing; Tell Me Something. It’s so important for writers’ to hear their work. Hear how it’s landing. This is an invaluable gift to me. I hope it proves valuable for the local community too. I think it’s fun, and funny and will (hopefully) resonate for locals. The evening will activate a new arts space—The Avalon Workshop— and will be a chance to come together and hear a new piece of theatre take its first steps.
Readings are fun. Without the bells and whistles and theatrics of a full production the audience are able to commune with the words. It’s intimate and it’s exciting. Numbers will be limited, due to covid restrictions, but there will also be a live stream for those who want to watch at home. Both versions of the event are free.
What’s the play about?
It’s a play about the nitty gritty of queer lives. The way we live and love and navigate our loves and truths. The way we speak to each other. The way we play. It looks deeply at what queer friendship/chosen family is, how it operates, why it matters, why we fight for it. And why, sometimes, your relationship with your best friend is your most romantic relationship. Tell Me Something argues for the importance of platonic love. The characters live in Surry Hills, but they grew up on the ‘Beaches and they speak about the ‘Beaches a lot (and sneak away to them, too). The play explores the way, if you grew up here (and maybe even if you didn’t?) these beaches haunt our lives. My intent is to make you feel sentimental and to make you laugh, and to make you think. If you’re queer too, I want you to see yourself. If you’re not, I want you to see us. I think there’s universal stuff in this play about loving and living and friendship that I hope will resonate with everyone. But there’s unashamedly specific stuff too. And the play argues for the importance of that specificity.
So, you’d like to bring more theatre to the Northern Beaches?
I think we totally need more theatre on the ‘Beaches. I’d really like to activate our natural amphitheatres and stage works in and on our beautiful landscape. There are so many creatives living up here, it would make sense for us to produce more local work. We all know how much we hate driving into town, but town is where the theatre scene is at. We need to remedy that. We need to bring the theatre to us.
You’d like to tell stories about queer lives. Tell us more.
We always need more stories about queer lives! Obviously, things have improved in recent years, there’s heaps more representation than say, when I was growing up in the 90s [and about the best we had was that submerged sub-textual lesbian plot between Shannon (Isla Fisher) and Mandy (Rachael Blake) on Home and Away]. Queer stories are everywhere now, and that’s great, but I’ll say two things, 1) they’re still not as common on the stage (especially lesbians) and 2) a lot of the time the stories are pretty heteronormative (or homo-normative?) I like to tell stories about the queers that live a little outside of the normative paradigm. And I think we need more of those stories. I think the more we tell stories, share stories, swap stories, the more we understand each other. So, we need to ensure a breadth of stories, a diversity of stories, always.
The 2021 Mardi Gras Festival is coming up later this month. What’s the ongoing relevance of Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras, is again, a festival where you feel like everything is in town, it would be nice if there was more local queer content especially for young people. I think just the visibility of it would be really important for young people up here. Unfortunately, this reading of Tell Me Something isn’t a part of the official Mardi Gras program (and falls outside the festival dates) but maybe when I get a full production on its feet it can run as part of a future Mardi Gras festival. I think that Mardi Gras will always have an enduring relevance for our community however normalised our lives now are. The festival honours what our community went through, what they sacrificed for us to be here, now, with a reasonable level of safety and acceptance. I say ‘reasonable’, because there is certainly still work to do, and this world isn’t entirely safe for anyone who is a minority.
What’s it like being part of the LGBTIQA+ arts community on the Northern Beaches?
Sadly, I don’t feel like part of an LGBTQI arts community on the Northern Beaches, but, I’d like to be. And I guess this is me sending my little message in a bottle out there. Here’s my story. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…
Where to after this, and where do you see yourself in 5 years-time as a playwright?
Five years from now, huh? I hope theatres have held on, and weathered this storm. I hope I’m still writing, and making and sharing stories with audiences. If I’ve still got art in my life, I’ll be happy. So, thank you, Northern Beaches Council, for these grants and helping to keep artists ‘making’ across what has been a very bleak time for the arts. Thank you!
All images courtesy Sophia Davidson Gluyas