We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?
I get inspired by so much of the world around me. I live in New York city and there are so many wonderful people, so much heart. So many people trying so hard to get ahead, to achieve their dreams, to support their families. It’s the striving that inspires me. Human beings are truly incredible creatures with immeasurable capacity. I first visited New York in December 2001 and I found it the most welcoming place I’d ever been. Resilient, brave people who wouldn’t be beaten. I wanted to be part of that and to create art that reflects that struggle. The struggle to be greater, to be better, to never count yourself out.
I’ve trained extensively with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company and am now on their board. One of the key elements to SITI’s practice is Suzuki which incorporates virtually impossible movements but asks you to attempt them again and again seeking excellence, seeking precision, seeking strength, seeking freedom. Perfection isn’t interesting, glossing over the hard parts of life or giving into them is dull, but the artists’ struggle, the human struggle to succeed, for excellence, for joy, for love, that is the marrow of life. The attempt. That’s what inspires me. Billions of people on the planet getting up every day to try to make this one better than the last.
Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?
The Day the Sky Turned Black, is about the survivors of Australia’s greatest natural disaster, the Black Saturday Bushfires. In 2009, Australia experienced firestorms that destroyed an area of land 51 times the size of Manhattan. These fires released the energy of 1500 atomic bombs and killed 173 people.
When the fires hit, I was living thousands of miles away at drama school in the UK and could not fathom that someone had lit a fire that caused such destruction. However, as I began investigating the fires, I heard the most incredible stories of hope, of bravery, of strength & love. I realized that the story of the survivors pulling together to rebuild their lives was far more compelling, and that was the story I needed to tell.
The play is now a 5 character solo show. It follows 3 survivors – a little boy, a grandmother & school teacher; the mother of one of the arsonists; and a journalists who was one of the first on the scene. The journalist’s text is verbatim and was taken from interviews I conducted with her in the year following the fires. The remainder of the characters are conglomerations of people I interviewed, research, and infusions of my grandparents’ love story & tales from my own childhood.
I’ve been very lucky to perform 10 seasons of the play so far. Two separate months in Edinburgh, two seasons in Sydney, two in New York, Perth, Adelaide, Charleville and a schools tour. Really I wrote it in the hope that it might heal. Performing across 3 different continents has shown me the struggle to overcome adversity is universal; the circumstances and geography may differ, but the quest remains the same.
What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”
Most important to me is that I make a difference. That my work heralds positive change and does some good in the world. I want to create work that heals, that entertains, inspires and enlivens the audience. Work that reminds people in the dark hours that hope exists even in most unlikely of places. I also want to make people laugh and bring a touch of joy and magic to my work. If I can do that on big stages, or on big platforms, then I’ll be one happy lady.
Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?
I suppose I believe that human capacity is far greater than we even know, so I’d have to disagree with the ‘can’ part. I think both Sally Field & Paul Newman could do a good many things.
I actually have a business background. I have first class honors degree in economics (like summa cum laude) and wrote my thesis on development economics and then began a career in business strategy. But I had always wanted to act, to create and after watching the incredible solo show ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ I decided to change my path. I auditioned for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, to my great joy they accepted me, I became an actor and am mighty pleased I did!
Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?
I would want to work in development, creating programs that made a better world .
Hopefully I can do this with art too. In Sydney I created a program working with 120 students from disadvantaged schools. Over 3 months the teenagers created 6 brand new plays and put them on at the biggest professional theatre in western Sydney. Many had never even seen a play before. Most had English as a second language and some had come from some pretty tricky situations including seeking asylum in Australia due to persecution in the country of their birth. They were all absolutely incredible! They triumphed! Art has such power to heal, to give people voices, to build, empathy, creativity, confidence & joy. Those students are clear evidence in the incredible capacity of humans.
Thank You! …. Oh and I have a couple of upcoming shows in the works, ‘Let them Eat Cake: An American Love Story’ coming to Oklahoma City in October 2016, & NYC in 2017; and Calderon’s Two Dreams at La Mama in February 2017. For further details check out www.alikennedyscott.com